The renewal of a rivalry?

By: By Deon Cranford III - For the Daily Journal

Tonight, the Raiders will host the Seventy-First Falcons in what could easily be described as a rivalry game.

From 1973-2008, the Raiders and Falcons met 28 times with the Raiders winning 22 of those meetings. That may sound a little lopsided, but what makes this series so interesting is the number of high-stake games and exciting finishes that have occurred.

Eight of the 28 meetings were decided by a score or a defensive stop in the final 2 minutes of play, and 15 of the 28 meetings were decided by 2 scores or less. 11 of the teams’ meetings occurred during seasons where one of them went on to win a state title.

Then there was the anomaly in 2008 when Richmond and Seventy-First both went on to win the 4AA and 4A titles respectively.

There is also the variety of meetings that have occurred between the two. Throughout the series, the Raiders and Falcons have played games in August, September, October, November, and December. They have played in non-conference, conference, and postseason play.

The Sandhills Athletic Conference will be the third conference that will feature both schools as participants — they were both in the Mid-South Conference from 1981-1984 and the Mid-Southeastern Conference from 2001-2008.

The Raiders and Falcons have met twice in the Eastern Finals with a trip to the state title on the line. The series has featured multiple upsets, barn burners, an overtime game, games that determined the conference title, games that affected playoff seedings, and a long list of big names that went on to play at the next level.

The importance of tonight’s game is just as great.

The Falcons are in a pretty good position in the 4A MaxPreps rankings, meaning wins vs Richmond and Jack Britt in the final two weeks would most likely secure at least one home game in the state playoffs.

A victory for the Raiders can set up a conference title game vs Scotland next Friday in the season finale. This would not be unusual since either the Raiders or Scots have won or shared the conference title in 35 of the 40 seasons that they have been in the same conference.

It’s been 9 years since the two have met, but do not overlook the relevance of this matchup. The history of this series speaks for itself.

Here are some of the big games that have occurred between the Richmond and Seventy First:

1973: Richmond took a 12-8 lead on a one-yard run by Billy Dunn with just 1:18 remaining in the game. The Raider defense then stopped Falcon QB Terry Wardlaw on the Richmond 2-yard line as time expired.

1981: In the first conference meeting ever between the two schools, Seventy-First took an 8-7 lead into the 4th quarter.

With just under 5 minutes remaining, the Raider defense stopped the Falcons on 3rd down near midfield, seemingly giving the Richmond offense one last chance. However, Seventy-First punter Sandy Davis fooled everyone when he took the snap and ran for a first down. Then Gregg Williams scored on a 24-yard run and the Falcons went on to win 16-13 in their first victory over the Raiders.

1983: When regulation ended, Richmond and Seventy-First were tied at 16-all leading to the first and only overtime matchup between the two schools.

Richmond got the ball first in overtime and scored in just one play. Red Morrison completely fooled the Falcons after he took a handoff and — instead of running — lobbed it to Robbie Bowers who was wide-open in the end zone. Skeet Thomas’ PAT gave Richmond a 23-16 lead.

On Seventy-First’s overtime possession, QB Kenny Jones scored on a 3rd-and-1 play cutting the Raider lead to one. The Falcons decided to go for two points and the win. Jones’ pass to the end zone ended up in the vicinity of two Seventy-First receivers, but it was Morrison who once again came up with a big play. Surrounded by Falcons, he still managed to get a hand on the ball knocking it away and securing Richmond’s only victory over Seventy-First during their four years as part of the Mid South Conference.

1985: The defending state champion Seventy-First Falcons hosted Richmond in a week two barn burner.

Following a Falcon touchdown early in the 4th quarter, the game was knotted at 7-all. On Richmond’s next possession, they drove the ball 54 yards in 10 plays but faced a fourth-and-one at the Seventy-First 15-yard line.

Richmond decided to put the ball in the hands of halfback Brian David who raced past the line-to-gain and carried it on into the end zone. The PAT gave Richmond a 14-7 lead with 5:43 remaining in the game. Seventy-First still managed to drive the ball deep into Richmond territory, but the Falcons turned the ball over on downs at the Richmond 15 yard line.

1987: A lot can happen between September and November.

When the Raiders traveled to Fayetteville to take on the defending state champion Falcons in Week 2, Seventy-First showed why they were one of the state’s best programs. The Falcon defense forced seven fumbles, recovering four of them, and had an interception en route to a 30-0 whooping of the Raiders.

Seventy-First ended with more return yards on turnovers than they had in total offensive yards.

The two would run into each other one more time two months later in the first round of the 4A playoffs. With both defenses playing well, punting became a major factor. Richmond’s Mike Thomas’ punts kept Seventy-First pinned back deep in their own territory for the majority of the first three quarters.

This led to multiple short field opportunities for the Raider offense and it paid off twice. Rushing touchdowns by Marcus Cox in the first and third quarters allowed Richmond to take a 14-0 advantage into the fourth quarter.

After the Raider defense once again forced a Falcon three-and-out early in the fourth, the ensuing Falcon punt was mishandled by Richmond, and Seventy-First recovered at the Raider 37-yard line.

Finally, with good field position, Seventy-First put together a short drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Frank Little and Richmond’s lead was cut to just seven with 9:35 remaining.

The Falcon defense did what it needed and stopped Richmond on their next possession. This time, after Thomas got his punt off, a diving Seventy-First player plowed into him giving the Raiders a first down and an opportunity to run more time off of the clock.

That’s just what they did.

The Raiders continued to move the chains eating away the game’s final minutes. The drive ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Thomas with 17 seconds left and the Raiders avenged their loss earlier in the season with a 20-7 playoff victory.

1988-90: Richmond recorded six wins in three years over the Falcons outscoring Seventy-First 157-44.

The two teams faced one another in non-conference play as well as in the postseason each of those years. They met in the 4A Eastern Regional Final game in 1988 and 1989, and met in the third round in 1990. Richmond went on to win the 4A state title in all three seasons.

2003: Trailing 21-14 late in the 4th quarter, Seventy-First had one last possession to try and tie it up or take the lead. Richmond’s Richie Houston ended the Falcon threat when he picked off a pass with only 1:02 remaining in the game securing the Raider victory and sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

2004: Richmond was leading 19-14, but had Seventy-First knocking at the door in the game’s final minutes. With just over a minute remaining, Richmond’s Michael Collins forced Seventy-First quarterback Troy Russel to fumble at the Raider two-yard line. Collins then pounced on the ball securing the Raider victory.

2005: Richmond fans stood silent and stunned at Raider Stadium while Bryant Terry lay motionless on the field in the third quarter.

He had just hauled in a pass in the Seventy-First red zone before getting drilled by a Falcon defender. The Raiders were trailing 6-5 and were having great difficulties moving the ball on offense, but Terry managed to secure the ball and take it to the ground with him after the hit before contact with the field seemingly knocked him out cold.

As EMS workers carted him off the field, Terry managed a few fist pumps into the air letting Raider Nation know that he was OK and simultaneously firing up his team. The Raiders finished off that drive with a touchdown and scored once more in the fourth quarter to win 18-6.

2006: This one was a defensive battle.

Richmond scored 10 early points in the 1st quarter, but from there the two teams held each other in check until midway through the fourth. The Falcons cut the Raider lead to just two points when they were finally able to put together a long drive. That drive ended with a touchdown and two-point conversion, which were both two-yard runs by Victor McLean.

Later in the fourth, the Falcons had the chance to steal the win when Seventy-First’s Marcus Woolford picked up a fumble and headed for the end zone. Raider QB Derrick Wiley caught up with Woolford and brought him down setting up a first-and-goal situation at the six-yard line.

The Raider defense stopped the Falcons for three plays forcing Seventy-First to attempt a 21-yard field goal with just seconds left. Falcon kicker Kevin Barnhardt missed the target preserving the Raider victory.

2007: This meeting was one of the more bizarre games in either schools’ history.

Richmond entered the matchup following a huge overtime victory over rival Scotland and sporting a 9-0 record. Seventy-First was only 3-6 at that point with their wins coming against Cape Fear, Pine Forest, and Westover; all of which had losing records that season.

The game was moved to Saturday because of rain on Friday, but the move backfired. In the second quarter, a heavy rain began to fall clearing the stands at Raider Stadium. The rain was so heavy that there was nearly zero visibility from the stands and the few remaining fans relied on the P.A. announcer to keep them updated on the action.

Seventy-First shocked Richmond and the state defeating the Raiders 13-6 and ending Richmond’s 68-game regular season winning streak. West Charlotte defeated Richmond in the postseason, but later had to forfeit that win. This left the Raiders’ loss to the 3-6 Falcons as their only loss of the 2007 season.

2008: After one of their worst starts in over two decades, the Raiders had to travel to Fayetteville to face the 7th ranked (AP) Falcons on Halloween night. Seventy-First took a 9-0 lead into the half and appeared to be in control.

Following a touchdown in the third quarter and another in the fourth, the Raiders found themselves in front 15-9 and in a position to pull off a huge upset. Seventy-First had a chance to steal the lead back.

The Falcons found the end zone with just 1:46 remaining in the game, but missed the important PAT keeping the game knotted at 15. Overtime did not seem too appealing to Richmond. The Raiders took a 22-15 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Alex Ingram with just 22 seconds remaining.

By Deon Cranford III

For the Daily Journal