ROCKINGHAM — With the forecast calling for a high chance of rain Friday night, many high school football games in the surrounding areas have either been moved up a day or pushed back to Monday.
The Richmond football team, however, will play its non-conference game at Pine Forest as scheduled. Coaches would rather battle amidst a heavy rainfall Friday evening than have to play two games next week.
In an effort to get his team prepared for what could be a wet game, head coach Bryan Till had the sprinklers running prior to Wednesday’s practice. Quarterbacks coach Jay Jones also had a water bottle on standby so he could wet the ball in between snaps, getting freshman Caleb Hood ready for a situation he hasn’t faced on the varsity level just yet.
“If the ground is wet and the ball is wet, that’s as close as you can get,” Till said.
The Raiders also have the opportunity to focus even more on their snaps from junior center Jake Ransom, who’s now finding his rhythm after sitting out during the team’s scrimmages a few weeks ago. They struggled with getting clean snaps in the first game, did much better last week and hope to go without an error this Friday.
Till said he hasn’t seen a bad snap in practice so far this week.
“With the more reps, he’s getting comfortable. He’ll be fine,” he said of Ransom, a 2016 all-conference selection. “He did it last year, so we know he can get it done.”
Richmond (1-1) is coming off a tough 38-13 loss to reigning state champion Wake Forest, where it couldn’t find a consistent way to move the chains or stop the opposition from scoring. The Cougars had multiple weapons in their backfield that caused problems within the Wing-T offense, and got a strong push from their big men upfront in the 3-4 defense.
The Raiders look to get back to their normal style of play this week, though, as they are facing a Pine Forest squad that is more traditional in its approach.
Till and his defense have been spending a lot of time in practice going over the rules within their scheme and making sure players are taking the right angles as they go in for the tackle — something they struggled with against Wake Forest.
Offensive coordinator Brad Denson, on the other hand, is looking for those who are willing to step up when their numbers are called. A few skill players are battling some minor injuries and may be game-time decisions, possibly giving more field time to some reserves.
“Other guys are going to have to step up…and I hope they are hungry. They’ll get a few more opportunities to show what they can do,” Till said.
Pine Forest (0-2) is looking for its first win of the season, as it fell to Purnell Swett and Concord, respectively, on the road.
The Trojans are still without senior quarterback Julian Hill, whom Till called a “stud,” due to his ongoing recovery from a torn ACL suffered in the latter part of the 2016 season. They’ve been rotating between junior Richard McEachern Jr. and freshman Jaden Jones under center in his absence.
Till says he’ll be keeping an eye out for senior athlete Lavonte Carter, who can make plays from just about any position on the field. Carter was responsible for a rushing, receiving, passing, kick return and punt return touchdown last season. He also lines up as a defensive back in the Trojan secondary.
“You’ve got to be aware of those kinds of guys because he can touch the ball and go to the house at any time,” Till added.
One of the ways both Swett and Concord found success against Pine Forest was through the air. Swett’s Luke Oxendine threw for 295 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener and then Concord’s Jadon Bell followed with a 175-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 2.
But the Raiders won’t base their play calling off those statistics.
Richmond will still look to its run game as Hood — 17 completions, 231 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the first two games — gets more comfortable with his reads and exploring his options. The team’s backfield may have been held up last week but it showed its potential at Reagan a couple of weeks ago, rushing for more than 300 yards and five scores.
“They’ve given up some stuff in their secondary, so there may be some chances, but we’re just going to take what they give us,” Till explained. “That’s the way our offense is designed.”
NOTE: Pre-sale tickets for Friday’s game, which takes place at Pine Forest, are now available for purchase online. Those interested can visit www.gofan.co/app/events/8737.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.