The Richmond junior varsity football team had a head-coaching change and lost a lot of its production to the varsity team after winning the conference title nearly two years ago — and was still able to repeat as champions in 2017.
First-year head coach Patrick Hope said, after beating rival Scotland in the regular-season finale, that it was “a dream come true to be able to come back to your alma mater and represent the program that you played for.”
Richmond only allowed 5.9 points per game and shut out four of its 10 opponents. Wake Forest was the only team to put up more than eight points on the defensive unit — scoring 22 points in the season opener.
Offensively, the team averaged 29.7 points a game behind quarterback Noah Altman and a strong running game that featured LaCyruss Ellerbe, A.J. Roseboro and Tashawn Wall. The versatility of freshman C.J. Tillman also played a huge part.
The 2017 season started in dramatic fashion for the Raiders, as they barely escaped an emotional overtime battle with Wake Forest in the first game of the year. They would seal the one-point victory (24-23) by blocking the Cougars’ PAT attempt.
After crushing Pine Forest (34-6) in their home opener, Richmond held both Butler (6-0) and Purnell Swett (49-0) scoreless in a pair of road games. Against the Rams, it put up five touchdowns in the first half — scoring on its first four offensive possessions and recovering a blocked punt in the end zone.
The Raiders took down Pinecrest the next week (24-7), handed Jack Britt its first loss of the season the following week (27-8), and then exploded for big performance against Hoke County in their second-to-last home game of the season (49-0).
“We contributed in all three phases,” Hope said after the win over Hoke. “We did a great job of handling and managing the system, and we got a lot of people involved.”
Xavion Lindsey’s 70-yard punt return for a score highlighted Richmond’s 27-8 win at Lumberton. Things weren’t looking well after the first quarter, but Lindsey’s touchdown and Altman’s 45-yarder to Hakeim Blue got the team going in the second stanza. Wall bullied his way to the end zone in the third quarter and Ellerbe finished things off in the fourth.
A week later at Seventy-First, four players combined for six rushing touchdowns in the team’s 44-8 victory. Both Roseboro and Wall scored twice on the ground. Altman and Ellerbe finished the game with one touchdown each. The Raiders racked up more than 350 yards of total offense in the October matchup while holding the Falcons to just 37 yards.
Richmond capped off its second consecutive undefeated season with a 14-0 win over Scotland. Its defensive unit forced two turnovers on the night — the second one being Z’yier Baldwin’s interception late in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal. Altman was responsible for both scores: a four-yard scamper in the first and a 64-yard pass to Tremel Jones in the fourth.
WHAT WAS SAID
“I think, if anything, this gives the fans something to be hopeful for in the future,” Hope said of the JV program’s back-to-back conference titles. “I think this is going to get Richmond back as the premier program in the state.”
Hope will return this fall for his second season as head coach, as well as offensive coordinator and defensive line coach, and expects to complete another sweep of the competition. He’ll have to do so with a revamped roster, seeing that a healthy number of the JV team’s playmakers are expected to suit up for the varsity squad next season.
Now that summer workouts have begun, the coaching staff can get a good look at which players have the potential to continue the program’s current 29-game winning streak — dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.