ROCKINGHAM — A second-half rally from the Richmond football team, after being down 20 points at halftime, had Raider Stadium rocking Friday night.
Dante Miller’s two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter, the defensive unit’s new-found energy and only a six-point deficit heading into the final period got the home crowd hoping it would witness some Raider Magic.
“That was huge. Our kids fed off of that and we need our people here to understand how big that was for our kids — how much we appreciate that,” head coach Bryan Till said. “That energy is why we were in the second half. The way our kids played with energy on defense and physically on offense, pounding the ball, that’s why we were in it.”
But the rally didn’t end in victory, as Richmond failed to convert on the trick play it drew up on fourth down. Senior Kaleb Douglas’ pass to freshman quarterback Caleb Hood was overthrown and the home team turned the ball back over to Butler, who then took a knee and walked away a 27-21 victory.
“Our kids, every one of them, believed we were going to win. We believed we were going to come out here and find a way to win,” Till said. “We’ve just got to start earlier.”
Butler (1-1) opened the game without much resistance, starting on their own 42-yard line and quickly driving the ball down the field. Junior quarterback Christian Peters completed a 23-yard pass and a few running plays later, senior tailback Nijere Peoples broke to the right side and got into the end zone from 14 yards out.
With the help of three penalties from the Bulldog defense, Richmond answered nearly four minutes later on a four-yard touchdown from Miller. The successful extra point attempt tied the game 7-7 with 5:56 left in the first quarter.
From then on, Butler controlled the first half with its rushing attack. Peoples capped off the visiting team’s second drive with a one-yard push, sophomore Jamal Worthy scored his lone rushing touchdown from nine yards out and then Peters connected with T.J. Cusick for a 24-yard touchdown with only 38 seconds left in the half to go ahead 27-7.
Things were different after intermission, however, as Richmond found its rhythm on both sides of the ball.
After punting on its opening possession, Miller helped cut into Butler’s lead by breaking free for a 35-yard touchdown run. His third rushing score was a 40-yard burst through the line of scrimmage after senior linebacker Savion Streeter’s much-needed sack on the previous defensive drive.
After that score, and the extra point, Richmond only trailed 27-21.
“Our kids really answered the call. They just decided to be better in the second half,” Till said. “We didn’t change anything, defensively, we just got it right. That’s what we should be able to do when we get lined up correctly.”
It looked as if the Bulldogs were going to put the game away once junior Keyon Lesane broke free down the right sideline, but senior safety Malik Flowers tracked him down and stopped him after a 64-yard gain. Flowers’ hustle proved to be beneficial, as Butler couldn’t get anything going offensively and then missed its field goal attempt wide left.
A fumble by senior wideout Da’Shaun Wallace gave the ball right back to Butler, but the Bulldogs had another special-teams mishap when a bad snap led to a blocked field goal — setting up Richmond’s last drive with 4:43 left in the game.
A couple of runs from Miller and sophomore Jaheim Covington, and a Butler penalty, moved the Raiders closer to the goal line, but they couldn’t find the end zone. Hood was forced to run out of bounds on third down before Douglas’ heave sailed out of bounds.
Richmond (2-2) has a bye next week and will use that time to prepare for its conference opener against Purnell Swett.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
Richmond’s Caleb Hood (12) looks to throw the ball late in Friday night’s game against Butler. Hood completed 10 of his 15 passes for 56 yards in the Raiders’ 27-21 loss.