Following his team’s 28-point season-opening victory, Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard stressed to his team to keep striving to get better each week.
He referred to last season when the Raiders roared out of the gates with a 70-28 win over Sun Valley and never seemed to regain their rhythm offensively or defensively.
Part of the reason Richmond seemed out of sorts at the end of its 8-3 season was the injury bug which crippled both sides of the ball. The Raiders’ top two runners, Steven Houston and Dakwa Nichols, sat out the season-ending losses to Scotland and Northwest Guilford, while Ridge Sato was humbled with an ankle injury.
Defensively, Richmond was juggling players into different positions on the field and hoping to find the right chemistry to matchup with athletic teams like Scotland.
This group of Raiders for at least one night looked like a team ready to battle the Butlers, Mallard Creeks and Jack Britts of the state for a championship.
To the naked eye, Richmond played a near flawless contest in racking up more than 600 yards of total offense.
Junior quarterback Brent Flowers appeared more at ease running the team. Last season, Flowers and nearly everyone else in the stadium could hear the coaching staff telling at Flowers to get rid of the ball on the option several times during the game.
Against the Spartans, Flowers may have been told this from the sidelines a handful of times. When Flowers felt pressure last year, he kept the ball and tried to make plays on his own. For one game at least, he deferred to his running backs. Even throwing the ball, Flowers looked more comfortable in the pocket. Flowers completed his first five passes of the game and six of eight in the first half for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He finished 7 of 10 for 142 yards and the two scores.
Richmond set a record against Sun Valley last season when Houston, Nichols and Sato each rushed for 100 yards and became the first running back trio to accomplish it in school history. The Raiders nearly pulled off the feat again Friday. Nichols and Elijah Goodwin topped the 100-yard mark, while Diquon Cox missed by 11 yards.
Take away 55- and 80-yard touchdown runs by Albert Funderburk and the 41-yard sprint for a score by Juwan Paschal and the Richmond defense didn’t play poorly. However, Funderburk gashed the Raiders for 209 yards on the ground. Quarterback Kevin Saxton threw for 144 yards but needed 36 attempts on the night. The longest pass play for the Spartans was 20 yards in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
Even the special teams performed well. New kicker/punter Chris McDonald connected on all eight extra-point attempts and even booted a kickoff into the end zone.
Overall not a bad way to kickoff the 2012 season but the Raiders left plenty of room to get better this week against Lee County.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org