PFAFFTOWN — It may have taken a while, but Richmond eventually figured out the formula to winning in its season opener: run the ball up the middle.
The Raiders put the ball in the hands of senior running back Dante Miller, and his sophomore counterpart Jaheim Covington, and bullied their way through the second half of Friday’s game at Reagan. Miller and Covington’s combined five rushing touchdowns led Richmond to a 45-24 victory in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Miller ran the ball 18 times for 206 yards and three scores, while Covington picked up 103 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries — thanks to a combination of speed, power, awareness and the offensive line’s ability to create holes.
“We can rotate guys in (the backfield) and they can just pound it and pound it…Those fresh legs are tough to beat,” head coach Bryan Till said. “And we feel good about those guys upfront. We know what they can do.”
“I expect that out of them every week,” he added.
Friday’s matchup was delayed 30 minutes due to rain and lightning but that didn’t take any momentum away from Richmond, who only needed 43 seconds to put points on the board.
Junior Jahyee Stanback forced Reagan’s Thaddeus Thomas to fumble the ball on the opening kick return, and Richmond recovered it on the home team’s 24-yard line. Freshman quarterback Caleb Hood would hook up with Miller for a 22-yard completion before Miller punched it in from two yards out.
Richmond’s 7-0 lead would last a little more than 15 minutes of gameplay, as both teams struggled to move the ball following the game’s opening score.
Reagan finally broke the cold streak with 7:49 left in the second quarter when quarterback Riley White hooked up with Jamon Brown for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Mashion Powell’s eight-yard score nearly five minutes later, and a successful two-point conversion, put Reagan ahead 15-7.
A 30-yard bomb from Hood to a wide-open Kaleb Douglas with 11.7 seconds on the clock brought Richmond within one point (15-14) before the half — and that was the last time Richmond trailed.
“You saw a lot of that inexperience in the first half. A lot of breathing hard and guys getting excited,” Till said. “At halftime, we went back over our checks and they just kind of settled in.”
Miller opened the second half with a couple of big runs up the middle, Covington sprinkled in a 27-yard scamper and then Miller capped off the quarter’s first possesion with a 19-yard score after hauling in an option pitch.
Richmond’s backfield duo took turns wearing down Reagan’s defense after the break, combining for four touchdowns in the third quarter, while their team’s defense held Reagan to just a field goal.
Richmond would head into the final period with a 42-18 lead.
Victor Lucero’s 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave Richmond its final three points. A four-yard run from White — with 14 seconds left in the game — was Reagan’s last score.
Hood completed seven of nine passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in his high school football debut. He was also able to extend a few plays with his legs when receivers weren’t open downfield.
“I feel like he managed the game well…a really heady, really smart game from the young man,” Till said.
Till, who coached his first game at Richmond on Friday, saw his team finish with 317 rushing yards on the night. He also witnessed junior Taveon Ellerbe and sophomore Dereck Barringer each come away with an interception in the second half.
Richmond (1-0) now turns its attention to reigning 4AA state champions Wake Forest, who it will host next Friday.
“We can’t let the game be too much just because of who it is,” Till added. “The big thing for us will be just playing the game and not playing our opponent. We have to do what we’re coached to do.”
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Senior running back Dante Miller eclipsed 200 rushing yards in Richmond’s 45-24 victory over Reagan on Friday.