ROCKINGHAM — There is no secret as to what Lumberton wants to do — run the football and play tough defense.
Even though the opposition still knows what is coming, the Pirates have been successful with this format under coach Mike Brill.
In the first five games of the season, Lumberton was trying to follow the blueprint despite losing players like two-time Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Darius Lesane. The Pirates were 4-1 going into their open date with the only loss coming at Jack Britt.
After the off week, Lumberton hasn’t looked the same, losing both of its Southeastern Conference contests by an average of 26 points a game.
“They are still very athletic and have good team speed,” Richmond coach Paul Hoggard said. “Right now, they just don’t have as many good players as they have had before.”
Despite the Pirates coming into tonight’s contest with a two-game losing streak, Hoggard is concerned about their unusual throwback offense — the Wing-T.
“They are still a dangerous team offensively and defensively,” Hoggard said. “It is hard to get ready for that offense in a week.”
The Pirates are led by senior running back Daniel Robinson, who has rushed for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns. Josh Sheridan has run for 145 yards and a score, while Frankie Dickerson has notched 100 yards and a touchdown.
Richmond defensive coordinator James Johnson said Lumberton has been forced to throw the ball more than usual in its two conference losses after falling behind. Quarterback Jez Dees is 9 for 26 for 185 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
“In some games we broke down, they only threw three or four times and one of those was a screen,” Johnson said. “Against Hoke and Pinecrest, I think they threw it like a combined 24 times or something. When they do throw it, they want to get a big chunk of yardage.”
With Lumberton looking to do most of its damage on the ground, Johnson believes his unit’s biggest concern is playing their roles and not getting caught up in the Pirates’ misdirections, counters and trap plays.
“The offenses aren’t really similar, but the responsibilities are the same as playing an option team,” Johnson said. “You have to make certain people are in certain spots at all times. If a guy has backside responsibilities, he has to be there.”
Since allowing 56 points in the first two contests, Richmond’s defense has limited the opposition to just 35 points in the last five games. Part of the reason is the Raiders have been relatively injury-free on that side of the ball.
Cornerback Thomas Calhoun missed last week’s Purnell Swett game with an injured hamstring, but is expected to play tonight against Lumberton. The Raiders’ other cornerback, Devontae Watkins, is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Richmond is expected to get C.J. Lyons back in uniform for the first time this year following a wrist injury, giving Johnson another experienced body to use on defense.
“I think that has helped us to be able to define roles,” Johnson said about the defense’s health. “Instead of trying to teach someone a new position, we can keep building upon what they already know. Plus the kids can focus on what they need to focus on.”
Offensively, the Raiders should have two players return from injuries as well — Dakwa Nichols and Raheem Bowden. Nichols missed two games after injuring his foot in the West Forsyth game, while Bowden sat out the last contest with a dislocated elbow, which occurred against Hoke County.
Hoggard cautioned neither is expected to see much playing time: “If they do play, it will be very limited.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.