ROCKINGHAM — This Saturday, for the first time ever, Raider Stadium will be filled with 32 youth football teams that are vying for a chance to win a state championship and a trip to Florida for Nationals next month.
The Richmond Raider Youth Football program has been tasked with hosting the first round of the North Carolina AAU State Playoffs and has been giving permission to compete on the same field that belongs to the high school team.
Errol Hood — president of the organization and head coach of the 14-and-under team — won’t be taking this opportunity for granted, saying how much he appreciates Cindy Goodman (Superintendent of Richmond County Schools), Ricky Young (athletic director) and Bryan Till (head football coach) for allowing this event to take place.
Because there are so many teams coming from acros the state, games will split up and played at the high school, the Ninth-Grade Academy and Rockingham Middle School.
“We were selected to host because of how well we run our program,” Hood said. “I went to them and without a question they agreed to make this happen. They’re for the youth sports and they’re very into seeing the feeder program develop.”
The 10-and-under team — coached by Travis Byers — will be the only squad representing the program this weekend, as it has secured a No. 5 seed in the playoffs and will face off against the Triangle Hornets at 12:30 p.m inside Raider Stadium.
The young Raiders finished the regular season with a 6-1 overall record.
They took down the Raleigh Spartans and the Carolina Cowboys once, and beat the Fayetteville Guard and the Oak City Seminoles twice on the year. Their only defeat was an overtime loss to the Fayetteville Ducks — the No. 3 ranked team in the state — in the conference championship game.
“It would be so exciting to win (on Saturday). That would be history. Especially with the 10-and-under team, because before this year, they went two years without winning a game,” Hood said. “There’d be no better feeling than to come home, play in front of your home crowd and set the tone for the playoffs.”
Another hometown team will be in action at Raider Stadium as well. The Richmond Warriors’ 12-and-under team is set to play in the last game of the night at 9:15 p.m.
“It’s a great event that brings a lot of revenue to the town,” Hood added.
There’s a $7 fee for those 15 and older, a $5 fee for anyone between the ages 5-14, and free for all children under the age of five. All players who are members of the AAU league will be able to get in for $1 if they wear their jerseys to the games.
All proceeds will go to the team that wins the state championship in order to help on its trip to Nationals.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.