And for the second straight week, the Raiders were up to the challenge, withstanding a second-half rally by Lumberton and pulling away for a 35-14 Southeastern Conference victory Friday night at Lumberton.
Early on, this one looked to be shaping up as a defensive struggle. But the Raiders were eventually able to get their offense untracked, scoring a pair of first-half touchdowns on runs by Walter and Laron Ellerbe.
But football is often a tale of two halves - and this one started the second half following that script to the letter.
The Raiders’ opening drive of the second half stalled - and on the punt, disaster struck. The snap sailed over punter Chandler Conner’s head, and when the dust settled, Lumberton was in business at the Raider 24.
The Pirates wasted no time at all cashing in the Raider miscue, getting a 24-yard scoring run from Isiah Kennedy to finally crack the scoreboard with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
The score woke up the Pirates and their home crowd - and two plays later, the Pirates and their fans had cause to celebrate again, as the Raiders fumbled at their 24, and the Pirates recovered.
After a pair of five-yard Lumberton penalties, the Pirates again capitalized in a hurry, getting a 34-yard scoring strike from Marquez North to Dorian Davis. The extra point tied the contest at 14.
Brand new game.
But for the second straight week, the Raiders responded to a major challenge in a major way.
On the third play of the Raiders’ ensuing possession, it was Steven Houston finding a seam in the Lumberton defense for a 74-yard TD - stunning the Pirates and their fans.
The Pirates looked like they had an answer, driving to the Richmond 49. But the Raider defense began to stiffen, and before long, Lumberton was faced with fourth-and-1.
Pirate head coach Mike Brill elected to go for it, and it was time for a big-time defensive play from the Raiders.
It was linebacker Vonnie Dawkins answering the call, penetrating the Pirate backfield and dumping Pirate running back Kendrick McGill for a five-yard loss.
The Raiders wasted no time taking advantage of the momentum shift. On the first play, it was Houston striking again, this time from 55 yards out.
Houston’s line for the night: Two carries, 129 yards, two TDs.
The turn of events seemed to deflate the Pirates; Richmond added another late TD on a Walter Ellerbe run for the winning margin.
For Richmond head coach Paul Hoggard, despite the win, there are still concerns with issues like turnovers and penalties at inopportune times.
But the Raiders are 8-1 (3-0 in the SEC), and with Scotland County’s loss to Hoke Friday night, Richmond is in sole possession of first place in the conference with two games remaining.
But Hoggard doesn’t want his team thinking about that much.
“One play, one week, one game at a time,” Hoggard told the team after the win.
Hoggard said he was proud of his team for again not faltering in the face of adversity.
“They didn’t falter,” Hoggard said.
The Raiders expected a physical game - and they got it, Hoggard said.
“Give credit to Lumberton,” Hoggard said. “We relaxed a little bit after halftime, and they took advantage.”
Richmond’s road portion of the 2010 schedule is complete. The Raiders return home next Friday night to face Pinecrest at 7:30 p.m. before closing out the regular season Friday night, Nov. 5 at home against area rival Scotland County.
Contact sports editor David Vantress at 997-3111, ext. 14 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.