ROCKINGHAM — It’s no secret that Friday night’s high school football game between Richmond and Wake Forest is arguably the most anticipated second-week showdown in the state.
The non-conference battle will feature the No. 1 (Wake Forest) and the No. 8 (Richmond) teams in the CarolinaPreps.com 4A Power Rankings, has been picked as HighSchoolOT.com’s Live Game of the Week, and was named to the Charlotte Observer’s “prep football games to watch” list that was released at the top of the week.
And it’s all with good reason.
The Cougars have won 32 straight games dating back to the 2016 season, winning two state titles in the process, and are out to prove that they have what it takes to win title No. 3 despite only returning one starter from a year ago.
The Raiders, on the other hand, are coming off a 36-point victory in their season opener and are ready to see how they stack up against a program that has reached the state championship game in five of the last eight seasons.
“Wake Forest is a great football team, but we can’t get beat by the name on the jersey before we even step on the field,” Richmond head coach Bryan Till said. “Yeah, everybody knows they’re the two-time defending state champs, but how bad do we want to beat those guys? We’ve got to be craving to get on that field … to test our metal and see what we’ve got.”
Friday’s game will be only the second-ever meeting between the two schools.
Last year, Wake Forest cruised to a 38-13 behind its suffocating defense, a relentless ground attack, and a couple of momentum-building plays on special teams: a blocked punt and fourth-down fake that resulted in a first down.
That can’t be the case this time around, however, if Richmond wants to end the Cougars’ win streak, so Till says he’s been stressing the fact that his team will need to be physical and alert in every phase of the game from start to finish.
“We’ve got to be able to play all four quarters with these guys,” he said. “This is a great football team, and if we’re going to beat this team, we can’t let them jump out in front of us and just run their offense and eat clock.”
Wake Forest (1-0) is known for its ability to run the football out of the Wing-T formation, but recently-added senior Traevon Kenion — a 6’4, 220-pound South Carolina commit — gives senior quarterback Seth Hillman a new go-to target in the passing game. Kenion caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in the team’s 51-0 drubbing of Millbrook last week.
The Cougars also got a couple rushing scores from running backs Demarcus Jones — the lone returning starter — and Marquel Haywood, returned two fumbles recoveries for touchdowns, and saw senior kicker/punter Nolan Parris make three field goals and throw for a score on a trick play in the season-opening win.
“They’re going to play great defense, they’re going to grind it out on offense, and they’ve got a heck of a kicker,” Till said of the opposition’s game plan. “So the big thing is going to be for us to be very physical early and try to get some stops … even if our offense doesn’t score early. We can’t allow long drives or allow ourselves to get behind in field position.
“We’ve got to be disciplined.”
Richmond (1-0) will be looking for sophomore quarterback Caleb Hood and junior backs Jaheim Covington and LaCyrus Ellerbe to lead the offensive effort on Friday like they were able to do against Reagan in Week 1. Hood threw for 181 yards and two scores — and ran one in — while Covington and Ellerbe combined for 94 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
It won’t necessarily be easy to duplicate their performances from last week, seeing that Wake Forest’s defense hasn’t given up more than 21 points in a game since 2013, but Till says anything is possible if the Raiders have faith in what they’re trying to do.
“The big thing for us is we’ve got to believe,” Till said. “This game is going to let us know a lot — good, bad, or indifferent.”
NOTE: Directions and parking instructions, according to Wake Forest’s athletic director, are as follows:
Off of US 1 North, turn right on Stadium Drive just after you pass Olive Garden. Go about a mile and drive completely past the school. Turn left onto Rock Springs Road (signs say one way but it is not enforced), pass the parking deck and then turn on the first left past the deck and park in the lower lot or the lower level of the deck.
If lower lot and lower deck are full, return to Rock Springs Road and turn right and make an immediate right into the top level of the deck. Once those lots are full (generally by an hour before the game they are full) they will be closed off and parking will then be in the gravel lots across the street and in front of the school.
Wake Forest does not allow visiting fans to enter on the home side and vice versa. There will be clear signage directing fans to the appropriate sides. There are concessions and bathrooms on both sides of the field. We have two golf carts that run to the visitor side to assist handicap patrons as well as patrons with small children.
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.