ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard thinks Anson is better than its 0-2 start.
In fact, Hoggard was so bold to say he thought “they were the better team in both games, but they made critical mistakes at critical times.”
The Bearcats lost to Forest Hills 32-26 in their season opener, before falling to Pageland Central 32-25 last week. Anson has seven turnovers in its first two games, including a lost fumble at the Pageland Central 1-yard line. In addition to the fumbles and the interceptions, Anson coach Luke Hyatt his team also has committed penalties at inopportune moments in the game as well.
“We have 12 men on the field against Forest Hills after we make a stop on third down,” Hyatt said. “I have to give our kids credit, they are resilient. We had a good week of practice.”
As Hyatt is looking for ways to keep his team positive, Hoggard hasn’t had to deal with that issue so far this year. The Raiders (2-0) are averaging 596 yards of total offense and have turned the ball over three times.
Despite being bottled up by the Lee County defense, senior running back Dakwa Nichols is still averaging 93 yards a game. After a 126-yard performance against the Yellow Jackets, junior quarterback Brent Flowers is the team’s second-leading rusher, averaging 82 yards.
Hoggard is quick to point out, while Lee County took away the pitchout from the Raiders’ arsenal, there was still one bullet left in the chamber.
“They didn’t completely take the option away because the quarterback is part of it,” Hoggard said. “We ran the offense fairly well and threw the ball pretty well. I don’t care who scores or gets the yards as long as we win.”
Flowers not only found his groove running against the Yellow Jackets, he continued to be accurate passing the ball as well. Flowers was 7 of 11 for 219 yards and three touchdowns. For the year, Flowers is 14-for-20 for 361 yards and six scores.
The Raiders will be without one of its main components on the offensive line for the rest of the year — Justin Smith. The senior right tackle suffered a torn ACL and damaged both menisci in his knee against Lee County.
“He put a lot of time in the program,” Hoggard said of Smith. “He’s a college prospect and a tremendous kid. Justin was a key cog in the wheel because our offense is lineman based. He’s a huge loss for us.”
Malcolm Nicholson will replace Smith on the line and Joseph Cole will serve as his backup.
While the Raiders are forced to juggle their lineup on offense, the defensive side of the ball remains relatively healthy. After an up-and-down first half against Lee County, Richmond stiffen in the final 24 minutes. The Raiders limited the Yellow Jackets to 96 yards, 78 on one drive, in the second half.
Anson utilizes the double-slot option, which Richmond defensive coordinator James Johnson likens to Georgia Tech’s scheme, and has relied on the pass more than the run to move the ball this season.
“They’re been using it 2, 2 1/2 years now,” Johnson said. “They’re getting better at understanding it.”
Just like the preparation for Lee County, Johnson is urging his unit to play a solid 48 minutes. Against Sun Valley, Johnson was pleased with the effort in the first half before dropping off. Last week, it was opposite for the Raiders.
“We’re not going to score 56 points each week,” Johnson said. “We need to play fast and do what we are coached to do. As coaches, we have to get them to do it all the time.”
Anson has scored four touchdowns in both of its contests and Hyatt hopes his team will continue to have “success” on the road against Richmond.
The Bearcats lost 14-2 in 2010, 21-14 in 2008 and 12-7 in 2006 at Raider Stadium. Two years ago, Richmond scored in the closing moments of the game to push the final score out to double digits.
“The coaches and I talked about that this week,” Hyatt said. “The last three games it’s been an one-possession game. I think when you go to Richmond as an opponent, it’s a great environment, maybe one of the best in the state. You have that atmosphere then you have that Raider Magic in the air which pops up when you least expect it. It’s a great place to play.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com