ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond football team got a glimpse of its future in 2017.
With first-year head coach Bryan Till barking from the sidelines, and freshman quarterback Caleb Hood taking snaps under center, the Raiders were able to set a new foundation for the coming years.
No, the 7-5 overall record or the first-round playoff loss wasn’t the ending they had hoped for, but there were a number of positives throughout the season that Till believes the program can build on.
Like Hood’s performance at Scotland (24 completions, 423 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns), junior wideout Malik Stanback’s catching 12 passes for 301 yards and two scores in the final two regular-season games, and the defensive unit coming up with multiple goal-line stands against Seventy-First.
“Even though the record wasn’t what we wanted it to be, to see those kids and coaches do things the way it should be done day in and day out was good,” Till said. “I thought that we made plays
Coming into the season, Richmond was ranked No. 7 in the CarolinaPreps.com’s 4A Top-25 Preseason Power Rankings and was picked to finish second in Sandhills Athletic Conference standings — which it ultimately did.
The Raiders didn’t stay in the state’s Top 25 Rankings for long with losses to reigning 4AA state champions Wake Forest and Butler in the first four weeks, and then were looking at a fourth-place finish in the conference after their stunning loss at Jack Britt in Week 8, but their resiliency kept them in the hunt.
“I think what you saw was our guys overcoming a lot of different obstacles and challenges,” Till added.
Convincing wins over Hoke County and Lumberton set up a home showdown with Seventy-First three weeks ago, which had huge playoff and and conference implications. The team’s defensive stands inside the 20-yard line and Stanback’s 86-yard receiving touchdown with 2:11 left in the game led to a 25-19 victory.
Richmond had its best offensive performance against Scotland in the SAC title game, recording season highs in total yards of offense (626) and points scored in a game (47), but still lost by 22 points on the road. Last week, however, it struggled offensively against North Mecklenburg and was bounced from the first round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“We gave up a lot of yards and a lot more points than I ever want to give up again, but at the same time we made a lot stops — against really quality teams — that gave us opportunities to win,” Till said. “That was a lot of fun to watch.”
The Raiders say goodbye to a number of reliable weapons on offense, like running back Dante Miller (1327 rushing yards, 19 TDs) and wide receiver Da’Shaun Wallace (545 receiving yards, 8 TDs), but are bringing back Hood, Stanback, junior wideout Bobby Terry and sophomore running back Jaheim Covington.
On defense, they’re losing cornerback Kaleb Douglas, safety Jaquan Everett (interception leader), cornerback Tony McRae, linebacker Savion Streeter, defensive lineman Delon Wall (tackle leader), and more. A few returners, though, include sophomore defensive end Joerail White, junior linebacker Taveon Ellerbe and sophomore safeties Dereck Barringer and Swae Harrington.
“The future looks bright right now but if we don’t take care of the little things in the next eight months, it’s going to be very anti-climatic. It’s only bright if our guys progress,” Till explained. “We’ve got to put a ton of work in and generate some size on the offensive and defensive fronts.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.