ROCKINGHAM — There have been nine contests in the series between Richmond Senior and Jack Britt — all of them Raider victories.
And as the saying goes, make sure to save the best for last. That’s what the teams did.
The final meeting between the two schools took place at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill for the 2008 4AA state championship, a 38-35 come-from-behind victory for Richmond to claim title No. 7.
That was the last time these football powerhouses met on the gridiron as the budding rivalry came to an end a year later when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association broke up the Mid-Southeastern Conference. The Raiders were sent back into the Southeastern Conference, while the Buccaneers were placed in the Mid-South.
Now four years later, Jack Britt and Richmond will battle once again, this time in the third round of the state 4AA playoffs. The winner hit the road next week to face either Garner or Leesville Road, while the loser regroups for next year.
None of the competitors on the field tonight were a part of the 2008 contest, but the biggest absence will be felt on the Jack Britt sideline. Long-time coach Richard Bailey resigned in the spring to take the reins at Scotland. Bailey’s replacement, first-year coach Brian Rimpf, knows about the two teams’ history.
“I might have heard a little bit about it,” Rimpf said laughing.
Rimpf believes the rivalry between the two schools is more for the fans rather than the players or coaches because the teams haven’t met in four years.
“The big thing is both teams have 11 wins, it’s the 1 vs. 2 from our pod and it’s the third round of the playoffs,” Rimpf said. “The brackets slated these two teams together. Once you get to the third round, there are only four teams left in the region and they are all good.”
Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard agreed the remaining schools are good and firmly places Jack Britt in that category. Hoggard thinks the Buccaneers have several playmakers on offense but has been very impressed with what he has seen on defense.
“They run really well and they are good at what they do,” Hoggard said. “Of the three trade films I saw, they are really aggressive getting to the ball.”
Hoggard added he believes the strength of Jack Britt’s defense is at the linebacker position led by Dylan Clayton and Jordan Williams. Clayton leads Jack Britt with 149 tackles on the season, followed by Jovan Williams with 94 and Williams with 86.
“Our defense is pretty senior-laden,” Rimpf said. “The last five weeks I have been preaching about great team wins, where one unit bails out the other. Sometimes it’s the offense bailing out the defense or the defense bailing out the offense.
“I feel we can score when needed, but it’s nice to be able to punt the ball away and know you can trust the defense. We talk about getting 11 hats to the ball because something good can happen.”
This philosophy helped the Buccaneers stymie Hoke running back Detrez Newsome, who was limited to 30 yards on 10 carries. However, it could be tested by a Richmond ground game which has topped 300 yards in its last two games fueled by the return of Dakwa Nichols.
“I think he’s as healthy as he as been in a while,” Hoggard said. “Maybe he came back too early against Lumberton, but we didn’t know until he tried. Last week I think he was back to the Dakwa we all remember.”
Nichols is 97 yards shy of joining teammate Diquon Cox in the 1,000-yard club this season. Cox has a team-leading 1,041 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Jack Britt’s top rushers, Eric Carter and Marquis Foshee, have both topped the 1,000-yard barrier. Carter has a slight advantage, running for 1,050 yards, while Foshee has 1,016.
The Buccaneers will also take to the air as well, quarterback Mark McRae is 104 of 192 for 1,529 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
“They are similar to Lee County and Sun Valley,” Richmond defensive coordinator James Johnson said. “They are a little more athletic than Lee County. As we keep going further in the playoffs, we aren’t going to get five passes a game thrown at us. That’s a good thing because we get to expand what we have been teaching and it will challenge us.”
For the third straight week, the Jack Britt will be forced to knock off a team from the SEC to keep their season alive. The Buccaneers downed Lumberton 28-14 in the first round before slipping past Hoke County 17-10 last week. During the regular season, Jack Britt battled Lumberton, Pinecrest and Scotland.
“Geographically it is natural for us to play them because it is the closest 4A conference to us,” Rimpf said. “I know Richmond, Pinecrest and Hoke have been in the west, but this year they’re in the east. I expect a tough game from Richmond.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.