ROCKINGHAM — The first half of last season’s matchup with South View is etched in Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard’s mind.
Hoggard admitted it was about as bad a 24-minute stretch his team had on offense last year. The Raiders committed four first-half turnovers and was struggling to build any momentum. Trailing 21-7, kicker Todd Inman gave Richmond a shot in the arm with a 41-yard field goal as time expired to send the teams into the locker room with the Tigers ahead by 11 points.
Richmond stormed out of the gates in the second half scoring two touchdowns within moments of each other to pull away for a 36-21 win.
Both teams enter tonight’s contest on similar paths as last year’s clubs. Richmond is 3-0 coming off a blowout win over Anson. The Raiders are averaging just over 56 points a game and the defense posted the school’s 100th shutout in the Anson victory. South View, on the other hand, is 0-3 following a tough loss to Lumberton.
A year ago, the Raiders were also undefeated and scoring points in bunches. Richmond averaged 53 points a contest through three games. The Tigers were 1-2 after a blowout loss to Douglas Byrd, a hard-fought win over Hoke County and a heart-breaking defeat at Lumberton.
Despite being winless on the year, Hoggard believes South View will be able to cause some problems for the Raiders.
“They’ve been close against Hoke and Lumberton,” Hoggard said. “They’re a good football team and Randy (Ledford) has them ready to play. I know it’s coach speak, but they’re a good 0-3 team. They just had some tough breaks.”
One of the big things Hoggard is trying to impart on his team this week is fundamentals. Even though Richmond compiled more than 525 yards of offense for the third straight week, Hoggard thought the Raiders were a little careless at times.
“Stat-wise we are doing pretty good, but fundamentally we still have a long way to go,” Hoggard said. “We have big-play ability, but we have to get better in our mental approach and fundamentals.
“In high school, that’s one of the toughest things to get players to understand is the mental approach. If you are reasonably talented and focused, you will generally win. The first half against South View is a great example of what I’m talking about when you aren’t focused.”
Hoggard added there will be a change in the starting offensive line. Starting left guard Alex Norton will shift to right tackle, replacing Malcolm Nicholson, who started against Anson after Justin Smith was lost for the season with a knee injury. Logan Northcutt will move into Norton’s old spot at left guard.
Defensively, the Raiders will look to build off last week’s shutout of the Bearcats. Defensive coordinator James Johnson said South View should pose the same problems as Anson — lulling you to sleep by chipping away before breaking loose for a big gain.
“It’s a different style, but they will keep pounding you with the dive and they will wait for you to make a mistake,” Johnson said. “Their quarterback has experience, their running backs are pretty good and have some wiggle in their hips and their wide receivers are good. We will have to find a way to make a play against them on first down and force them into a second-and-long and third-and-long.”
Like Hoggard, Johnson is looking for his unit to concentrate on its mental approach when on the field.
“I thought we were pretty disciplined out there Friday,” Johnson said. “We were focused on our alignment, our assignments and the goal to get a shutout. We did a good job on focusing on what we had to do and our pursuit was about as good as it could be.”
Johnson added he was happy with the progress of two of his linebackers — John Taylor and Dion Spencer. The first-year starters helped the Raiders limit the Bearcats to 143 yards of total offense.
“A few guys started to grow up,” Johnson said. “I am pleased with the way John played and Dion did a good job. Those two were key to our success. I am pleased with how JT, Dion and Rashard have started to develop and with Gus (Chambers) as the primary backup.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com