ROCKINGHAM — A couple days removed from the first of two mandatory dead weeks, the Richmond football team got back into the flow of things with an early-morning 7-on-7 against Chesterfield (S.C.) on Tuesday.
It wasn’t the offensive unit’s best effort of the summer, so the Raiders looked to their defense to lead the charge. And without having to be encouraged by head coach Bryan Till to bring some energy, the defensive unit accepted the challenge head on.
“I had defensive guys saying ‘Hey man, it’s a little dead out here. We neeed to pick this thing up.’” said Till, who’s also the team’s defensive coordinator. “We still had to put (those words) into action, which we did a couple of times, but having those guys make that decision on their own is huge. Last year, I was having to say that.”
Following Richmond’s third offensive possession, where rising sophomore Caleb Hood and rising junior Noah Altman both threw an interception, Till’s defense came out and evened the scored by intercepting two of Chesterfield passes — while also recording two pass breakups.
Rising junior cornerback Zyier Baldwin jumped an out route, picked the ball off and then made a juke move on the opposing receiver that could’ve set him up for a touchdown had it been an official game. Rising sophomore linebacker Dayon Bright got himself an interception seven plays later while defending a slant route.
Baldwin and Bright weren’t the only Raiders to grab an interception during the 7-on-7, however, as rising junior Xavion Lindsey got a perfect read on the Chesterfield quarterback during the defense’s opening possession.
“We played a lot of zero coverage today and it was the first time we brought two linebackers all summer,” Till said. “We weren’t bringing them expecting to get (to the quarterback) during 7-on-7, we were bringing them to make ourselves cover in tougher situations. We made it harder on our guys defensively and we felt like they responded well.”
The Raiders’ backup unit on defense got more reps than normal on Tuesday — which resulted in four of Chesterfield’s six touchdowns being scored — but Till wanted to see how the “number twos” would react after making a mistake.
And he feels like they were able to do “some good things” while on the field.
“They got beat a couple of times and we just said, ‘Leave them in.’ They’ve got to figure out what they did wrong and what they need to do to fix it,” he said. “The big deal on defense is the next play, and it’s hard for them to get that mentality if we just yank them right out … We can let them make those mistakes (in 7-on-7s) and they can learn from it.”
As far as the offense goes, Till believes everything will look a lot better on Thursday — when Richmond welcomes Chesterfield, Union Pines and West Bladen for its final 7-on-7 of the summer.
Hood threw an interception on his first pass of the day, as he was trying to find a receiver down field while rolling to the right, and then threw another moments later after four consecutive short completions. He was able to end the day on a good note, though, finding rising junior Gavin Russell for a decent gain and then throwing back-to-back touchdown passes to rising senior Bobby Terry on the fifth, his final, possession.
Altman’s lone pick of the day took place during the third drive — right after Hood threw his third pick. The rising junior, however, was able to connect with fellow classmate Justin Morman for a deep touchdown on the second drive. He also caught rising sophomore Tremel Jones for a score on a curl route on the second-to-last play of the day.
”Offensively, I think we are still trying to find ourselves. We’ve got a lot of young guys and were doing a lot of teaching now that Malik (Stanback) is out,” Till said. “We threw some balls late into coverage, so the timing was a little delayed, but I think we’ll look better on Thursday. We’ll get to work on some of those things tomorrow (at practice).”
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.