ROCKINGHAM — There will be plenty of speed on display come Friday evening, when Richmond (2-1) hosts Butler (0-1) for what has the potential to be another high-scoring matchup between two of the top programs in the state.
The Raider football team is usually much faster than its opponents, but head coach Bryan Till doesn’t expect that to be the case this week. Butler also has a lot of speed at the playmaking positions on offense.
“They (Butler) can be a little more explosive on offense on a regular basis than Wake Forest,” Till said. “We’ll be faster than several teams we play but I don’t know that we’ll be a lot faster than these guys — if at all. Speed is not an issue for them.”
Friday night’s game will be the fifth time in the last five years that these two teams have faced one another in the regular season, with Richmond only earning one win in the previous four matchups — that win coming in 2014, when it pulled out a thrilling 55-54 victory in overtime at Providence High School.
Since then, Butler has won back-to-back games over the Raiders — splitting them on the road (2015) and at home (2016).
Last year’s loss was the one that stung the most, because Richmond looked flawless in first two quarters and entered halftime with a 35-19 lead. Things changed for the worst in the second half, however, as the Bulldogs came out on fire and eventually tied the game up at 35.
The Raiders were able to get their lead back on a rushing touchdown but the extra-point attempt was blocked, and that proved to be crucial. Butler responded with a touchdown of its own, and a successful extra-point attempt, in order to take a one-point lead.
With under a minute left in the game, Richmond lined up for a field goal on fourth down that would’ve essentially sealed the deal, but a miscommunication caused a fumble on the snap and allowed Butler to escape with a 42-41 victory.
“The guys have pointed to that several times since I’ve been here. It bothered them that they gave that one away,” Till said.
He may not have been coaching at Richmond last season, but Till understands the feeling. And he hopes that hunger for revenge drives his team to victory, despite the game being played only four days after it crushed Pine Forest.
”It’s easier for everyone to be a little more positive about what we’re doing after we win. The guys felt good about some things that they did but we’ve still got a lot to improve on,” Till added.
As Richmond prepares for its second game this week, Buter is preparing for its second game of the season.
The Bulldogs haven’t played since they lost to Mallard Creek 42-9 in their season opener nearly three weeks ago. They’ve had two bye weeks already due to them not being able to find an opponent, according to the Charlotte Observer, giving them more than enough time to rest.
Butler will more than likely rely on the well-rested legs of senior running back Nijere Peoples, who led the team’s rushing attack last year and carried the ball 18 times for 84 yards in Week 1.
“Some people could see it as a disadvantage, but coach (Brian) Hales does such a good job over there. I would be surprised if the bye weeks were anything other than a chance to regroup after a tough loss to Mallard Creek — one of the top programs in the state,” Till said. “I expect them to come out ready and clicking on all cylinders.”
In order to counter that, the Raiders will need to quickly recognize Butler’s many offensive formations and line up accordingly — all while being aware of Butler’s tendency to take shots down the field after calling multiple run plays.
Till also said Richmond’s offense will have to sustain, and finish, long drives and the special teams unit will need a repeat of the performance it had Monday at Pine Forest.
He believes that kind of well-rounded effort will lead the Raiders to their first home win of the season.
“Our home crowd would appreciate it. A lot more folks get to come out and see us (at home) and we want them to take pride in their football team,” Till said. “But for us, we don’t care if we’re on top of Mount Everest…we just want to win.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.