ROCKINGHAM — Head coach Bryan Till says his team’s scheduled bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
After being forced to play two games last week, at Pine Forest last Monday and then hosting Butler four days later, the Raiders have more than enough time to prepare for next week’s conference opener against Purnell Swett.
So they’re using this down time to “heal up a little bit” after evenly splitting the first four games of the season.
“The coach in me hates it because we’re coming off a loss, and I want to get the taste out of my mouth,” Till said. “But it’s good for us from a team standpoint. It gives us more time to work on some things, fundamentally, that sometimes get slack during the season — like tackling reps, handoffs and footwork.”
The Richmond football team has been using its off week to focus more on competition amongst themselves, instead of putting too much of an emphasis on what went right or wrong in its non-conference games.
“Defensively, we’re trying to go through a bunch of different formations we hadn’t seen so we can go back through our rules of how to line up…that’s been a problem in a couple of games,” Till said. “But as far as revisiting those particular games, not so much.”
Richmond (2-2) ran all over Reagan to start the season with a win, accumulating more than 300 yards on the ground thanks to the backfield duo of senior Dante Miller (18 carries, 206 yards, 3 TDs) and sophomore Jaheim Covington (12 carries, 103 yards, 2 TDs).
The team couldn’t get much going in a 25-point loss to Wake Forest in Week 2, however, as the offense struggled to move the chains, the defense failed to find an answer for the Cougars’ run game.
But the Raiders didn’t have that problem at Pine Forest, where freshman quarterback Caleb Hood threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns — and ran for 74 yards and a score — in a 40-14 rout. The special teams unit also played a big part in the victory, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and blocking a punt that resulted in a safety.
In their latest game, a 27-21 defeat at the hands of Butler, they turned things around in the second half but ran out of time before being able to complete the comeback. The Raider defense held the opposing team scoreless after the break, while Miller led the offensive effort with two 30-plus yard bursts for touchdowns.
“We’ve been really impressed with the young quarterback and they way he’s managed the game. We were also impressed, the other night, with our toughness in the second half and trying to battle back. There was no quit in the kids,” Till explained. “But we’ve got to work on how we come out in the games. We’re not starting well…on the road and away.”
Richmond has trailed at halftime in three of the four games played this season: down by one-point heading into the break at Reagan, by 24 points against Wake Forest and by 20 points versus Butler.
The only time it held an advantage after two quarters was the 26-point lead it held when battling Pine Forest.
As the team enters conference play, now a seven-game schedule due to the additions of Jack Britt and Seventy-First, Till is working on having players ready to go from the opening kickoff. The first-year coach is determined to witness a consistent performance throughout the full 48 minutes.
“I thought I gave pretty good pre-game speeches. Maybe I need to work on my material,” he said with a laugh. “But we don’t want to just be a good second-half team, which in part is because of our conditioning, we want to be a full-game team.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.