It is tough to call a Week 7 contest the “Game of Year” in the Southeastern Conference, but for now the Richmond-Hoke County battle Friday will fit the bill.
Both teams will walk into Raider Stadium undefeated, the Bucks are 6-0, while the Raiders sport a 5-0 mark. After 48 minutes of action on the field, only one team will remain unblemished. The other will have to get back to work and prepare for their next battle in the SEC.
Throughout its 41-year history, Richmond is usually the squad which heads into the second week of its conference schedule with a 1-0 record and dreams of a league title if not more.
Just not last season.
The Raider Express, which is accustomed to rolling through Buck Country, derailed for the first time in 35 years and never seemed to get back on track. Even though the team won its next three games, things just seemed amiss.
After plowing through the nonconference schedule defeating the opposition by an average of nearly 29.5 points a game, Richmond won its three SEC games by a combined 11 points or an average of 3.6 points per game — almost a 26-point swing.
Richmond coach Paul Hoggard even thought last season’s 24-21 loss to Hoke really affected to his young team, “We were never really the same. We never recovered from it.”
And now the Raiders face the same task on Friday as it did a year ago heading into Raz Autry Stadium — rebuild the momentum they had before the open date and beat the Bucks.
Easier said then done, especially after Richmond had a handful of starters leave the West Forsyth game early because of injuries.
Plus, Hoke County is 6-0 for the first time in history and features one of the top running backs in the region. Detrez Newsome has been a one-man wrecking machine out of the Bucks’ backfield. The senior is coming off a 296-yard, three-touchdown performance against Westover last week and for the season has 1,369 rushing yards and 21 scores.
And he has another five games left on the schedule.
While Newsome has been putting up some eye-popping numbers, Hoke’s opposition has been less than spectacular to say the least. None have a winning record, only two have at least two victories and are a combined 7-28. Seventy-First is still winless and Cape Fear’s only win came against the Falcons last week.
In reality, none of that matters because the only thing the six SEC coaches care about now is being 1-0 in the league heading into next week’s contest.
Buckle up the chinstrap because it should be a rough five weeks with plenty more “Game of the Year” candidates.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org