ROCKINGHAM — When the Richmond Senior football team released its schedule back in February, head coach Bryan Till was excited about his team getting a chance to prove itself against some of the best programs the state has to offer.
“If we really want to be state champions, then we have to be excited about the opportunity to play state championship-caliber teams,” Till said earlier this year.
Now that high school football season is here, the Raiders are anxious to begin their first season under Till. They’ve worked hard to learn a whole new system over the summer and expect to compete at a high level every time they step on the field.
Here are the Daily Journal’s five must-see Richmond football games of the 2017 season (* denotes conference game):
5. Richmond vs. Pinecrest (Sep. 29)*
Pinecrest will be looking for revenge after letting one slip through its hands last season.
After the Patriots took a 14-13 lead with 43.3 seconds left in the 2016 matchup — thanks to former quarterback Nik Pry’s rushing touchdown — Richmond’s Dante Miller proved why Richmond fans believe in Raider Magic.
Miller scooped up the ensuing kickoff deep in his own territory, got a few key blocks and proceeded to break free down the right sideline for a 96-yard kickoff return for a score. The Raiders would convert their two-point attempt and then intercept a pass on defense in order to seal the 21-14 victory at home.
This year’s game will be a part of the “Touchdowns for Cancer” campaign that helps raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with every touchdown scored.
4. Richmond vs. Seventy-First (Oct. 27)*
The last time these two teams met was in 2008, when both schools were members of the Mid-Southeastern Conference.
Richmond would escape with a 22-15 victory on the road and then go on to win its seventh state championship in program history nearly a month and a half later. Seventy-First would shake off the loss and go undefeated the rest of the way as well, winning the program’s third state title.
How could they both finish as state champions? Richmond is classified as a 4AA program once the postseason rolls around, while Seventy-First — like Scotland — competes in the 4A State Playoffs due to school size.
Now that the Raiders and the Falcons are back in the same conference, look for this to become one of the standout games on the schedule every year.
3. Richmond vs. Wake Forest (Aug. 25)
The reigning state champions are making the trip to Rockingham next Friday.
Wake Forest has experience in its favor, with the team bringing back 17 starters from last year’s title run. Richmond, on the other hand, only returns six starters from a season ago and is looking for a few new faces to make plays at key positions.
The most important thing for the Raiders heading into this matchup will be making sure they take care of business in the season opener at Reagan this Friday. Till doesn’t want his team overlooking an opponent due to it having a “big game” coming up the next week.
This Week 2 showdown, which will be the teams’ first-ever meeting, should be a good early-season test for Richmond.
2. Richmond vs. Butler (Sep. 8)
Like Pinecrest, the Raiders know what it feels like to lose a game they should’ve won. And although he wasn’t the coach last season, Till has heard guys talk about avenging last year’s heartbreak in Matthews.
What had the potential to be a game-winning field goal last season — on fourth down with 59 seconds to go — quickly turned into a disaster once the snap was mishandled. Richmond was unable to get the first down, Butler took over on offense and ran out the clock — escaping with a 42-41 victory after trailing by 16 points at halftime.
Richmond welcomes the Bulldogs to Richmond County for its last non-conference clash in Week 4.
1. Richmond at Scotland (Nov. 3)*
This conference rivalry is arguably the most important matchup for both schools every year.
High school football fans who regularly attend the rivarly game understand that being early to one of these meetings means you’re late. More than 5,000 people crowd into either school’s stadium on the last week of the regular season to see who will win the conference championship, as they usually finish atop the conference each season.
The Scots have won the last six meetings, but the Raiders are determined to put an end to the drought.
Look for Scotland to rely on its backfield tandem of senior Zamir White and junior Syheam McQueen, while Richmond focuses on its speed and versatility on both sides of the ball.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
The Richmond Senior football team’s regular-season finale with Scotland will be its biggest game of the year, as it predicted to be a battle between the top two programs in the Sandhills Athletic Conference. Scotland has won the teams’ last six meetings, but the Raiders are determined to flip the script under first-year head coach Bryan Till. The rivalry game will take place Friday, Nov. 3, at Scotland.