ROCKINGHAM — As he was watching highlights in preparation for his first state-playoff appearance with the Raiders, head football coach Bryan Till quickly realized that Friday’s game versus North Mecklenburg will be somewhat of a new experience.
“I’ve been in the playoffs every year but one as a head coach. They are by far the best team I’ve ever played in the first round,” Till said. “They’re in a very tough conference with Hough, Mallard Creek and Vance. They lost to those three schools, but they were up on Hough by 19 points and they only lost to Mallard Creek by nine points.
“That’s a good football team.”
North Meck (8-3), coached by former Richmond football standout Eric Morman, will make the near two-hour trip to Richmond County a week after it downed Lake Norman 51-17 in its regular-season finale.
The Vikings run their offense through senior tailback Emanuel Wilson who has rushed for 1,645 yards and 20 touchdowns on 185 carries. Wilson has ran for more than 100 yards in all but two games this season and averages 149.5 yards per game and 8.9 yards per carry.
”If we don’t play Scotland, he’s the best tailback we face all year,” Till said of Wilson. “And the thing about playing against Eric, as opposed to somebody else, is he can get his kids ready to come into this environment because he knows what it’s like here. They won’t be wide-eyed like a lot of places would be.”
Richmond (7-4) has received a new wave of energy, with a number of junior varsity players being brought up to help with the scout team, and will be looking to grab a win in what’s more than likely its last home game of the year.
The offense is coming off a season-best 570-yard, seven-touchdown performance in a loss to Scotland last week. Freshman quarterback Caleb Hood threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, senior running back Dante Miller ran for 124 yards and three scores, and wide receivers Malik Stanback, junior, and Da’Shaun Wallace, senior, combined for 285 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
“When our crowd has been at the games, it has made a difference for these young men. It would be big for our guys and our seniors to see and hear that kind of support — like it was against Butler, Seventy-First and Scotland,” Till explained. “Any time you’re playing the game of football and you believe in something bigger than yourself, I think it elevates your play.”
With all of that said, however, the first-year coach isn’t too happy with how the playoff brackets turned out.
Richmond drew a No. 8 seed in the 4AA West — and North Meck a No. 9 seed — after the NCHSAA went back and revised the state playoff brackets. According to its Twitter account, the association “did not use the most up-to-date information” when it released the first batch of preliminary brackets Saturday morning.
The Raiders were originally slated as the No. 5 seed in the East and the Vikings held a No. 7 seed in the West.
This was the first year that the NCHSAA decided to use MaxPreps rankings to seed teams for the football playoffs. And that caused problems across the state, as teams with winning records were left on the outside while programs like South Caldwell (1-10) earned a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye — in the 4A West bracket — due to it being in a split conference.
“When they started realizing four or five weeks ago that teams with losing records were probably going to get a bye, why didn’t they go ahead get a committee together and get the votes needed to make some kind of addendum?,” Till said. “I know it would’ve taken a number of people to vote, but they should want to give the state and the schools the playoff system that they deserve.”
Richmond earned an automatic playoff bid due to its second-place finish in the Sandhills Athletic Conference, but Pinecrest — who they defeated head-to-head — received a higher seed (No. 6) in the 4AA East.
“That shouldn’t happen if conference play means anything at all. We have to get back to a point where the winning of the actual games have to matter,” Till said.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.