The Raiders are on the road again this week to take on struggling Southeastern Conference rival Scotland at Pate Stadium tonight with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. Richmond (9-1, 4-0) clinched the SEC title with last week’s 69-35 rout over Pinecrest.
Although the Raiders have secured the top seed out the conference heading into the postseason, Richmond coach Paul Hoggard doesn’t want his team to believe that it has nothing to play for this week against the Scots.
“The goal is to win the state championship, but right now, it’s important that we finish the conference undefeated,” Hoggard said. “That would be a great accomplishment, and if we can win over Scotland, we can drop the Butler loss and go into the playoffs undefeated, which will look good on our resume. We will have to wait to see who the other undefeated teams in the East or West are to determine where we will be seeded in the playoffs, but the worst we can be is a No. 3 seed.”
While four of the SEC teams have hopes of qualifying for the postseason, the Scots will be shutout of the playoffs for the second straight year. Scotland is currently last in the conference with an overall record of 2-8 and are winless in the league at 0-4.
While the Scots’ roster is composed of many underclassmen, Scots second-year coach Chip Williams doesn’t use that as a reason for the team’s continuing struggles this season.
“We have some young players, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” Williams said. “At this point of the year, the sophomores have played enough games to be playing like juniors and juniors have enough experience to be playing like seniors. We’ve had some injuries that have hurt us, but we have just been inconsistent.”
With Scotland having another tough season, Williams admitted this week’s game has lost a little luster compared to the usually anticipated Scots-Raiders’ matchups in the past.
“This game is usually one of the biggest in the state, especially with the communities being so close together,” Williams said. “But with last year and going into this game this season, we’re not bringing our share. Hopefully, next year the game will have a lot more riding on it from both teams.”
Hoggard believes Scotland has played better than what its record indicates.
“They’re a lot better than a 2-8 team, and we respect them tremendously,” Hoggard said. “I think Coach Williams is doing a good job, but they’ve had some unfortunate things happen to them. But their JV team has played great this season and their ninth grade team was undefeated. The future looks good for them.”
Both Richmond and Scotland run the spread offense, featuring the triple option. However, the Raiders’ unit has fared much better, averaging a conference-leading 40.4 points per game, while Scotland has scored a league-low 18 points a contest.
The Scots’ offense suffered a blow a few weeks ago when sophomore starting quarterback Kwashawn Quick went out for the season with a broken thumb in practice.
Before going down, Quick passed for 604 yards and rushed for 529 yards. Backup sophomore quarterback Caison Murphy, who switch from tailback, has passed for 228 yards and rushed for 327 yards and is a dual threat, according to Williams.
However, Williams admitted Murphy is still working on being a more polished passer as he has thrown four touchdowns and seven interceptions, including five picks last week in the 38-22 loss to Lumberton.
Scotland other primary weapons are sophomore running back Tony McRae, who leads the team with 637 rushing yards on 93 carries and senior receiver Devon Lloyd, who has 16 catches for 257 yards.
Although Pinecrest scored 35 points, Hoggard said he didn’t think the defense played that badly due to the special teams giving up a score and a some special teams’ mistakes put the defense in short fields.
But Raiders defensive coordinator James Johnson would like to see his defense make a statement going into the playoffs.
“This game is real big because I want to see the character and maturity of us going against a team that we could overlook,” Johnson said. “If we slop through this game, but we still win, that’s still not a good sign going into the playoffs. We just can’t continue to get by and put it all on the offense to come through. I want us to put together a complete game.”
Williams knows his offense must put together one of its better performances of the season to give the Scots a chance for the upset. After trailing 24-0 to Lumberton, Scotland outscored the Pirates 22-14 the rest of the way and Williams is hoping that production will carry over against Richmond.
“The first thing we can’t do is turn the ball over, which will pretty much gives us little or no shot of winning this game,” Williams said. “We also must come out with better intensity like we did in the second half last week.”
After Pinecrest grabbed a 35-34 lead early in the third, Richmond outscored the Patriots 35-0 the rest of the way to cruise to the 34-point win, its largest margin of victory this season.
The 69 points scored was a season-high, the five penalties for 35 yards tied a season low and the 630 total yards set a single-game school record.
However, starting running back Labarrian Jones suffered a high ankle sprain in the victory and is a game-time decision.
Filling Jones’ shoes would be junior running back Walter Ellerbe Jr., who set a school record with six rushing touchdowns against Pinecrest. He finished the night with 237 yards in 28 carries.
Third-string Kaleen Stanback also reached the end zone in the game and would backup Ellerbe Jr.
According to Hoggard, Richmond’s junior varsity leading rusher Steve Houston is scheduled to suit up under the eight-quarter rule.
Last week, Richmond spoiled Senior Night for Pinecrest and has an opportunity to do the same thing to Scotland. Hoggard expects their nemesis to let it all hang out.
“This is their Super Bowl, and I’m sure they’ve probably got some tricks up their sleeves,” Hoggard said. “They’re going to give us their best shot and it’s going to take a focus and tremendous effort for us to win.”
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