ROCKINGHAM — Trying to move on from all of the buzz that surrounded such a huge second-week showdown, along with coaches and players having to adjust to being back in school, has forced the Richmond football team to focus on its mental approach heading into this week’s non-conference game against Pine Forest.
It was easy for the Raiders to bring a lot of energy to practice last week, head coach Bryan Till said, because they were preparing to go to war with the two-time reigning state champions who haven’t lost a game in two years.
But this week, which started off with a not-so-great day on the practice fields, has given Till and his program the opportunity to revisit a question that is often asked: “What is our standard of play?”
“As long as we’re focusing on our standard, focusing on play the game of football the best way we can, then we’ve got a chance to fight through these situations,” he explained. “One of toughest things this week has been our mental … so we’ve got to continue to focus on us, what we do well and what our standard is as a football team.”
Richmond (1-1) doesn’t have much recent history with Pine Forest (2-0) — prior to last season’s meeting in Fayetteville, which the Raiders won 40-14, the two schools hadn’t met since 1990 — but Till knows that Trojan coach William Sochovka is going to bring a very athletic, versatile group into Raider Stadium on Friday.
Pine Forest’s Jaden Jones, sophomore, and Richard McEachern Jr., senior, share time at quarterback but will also play other positions throughout the game. Jones lines up as a receiver, slot and outside, from time to time and McEachern is one of the team’s starting defensive backs and punt returners.
Featured running back D.J. Jones, senior, spends time as a wideout as well while junior offensive lineman/linebacker Bernard Flerlage sometimes takes the field on special teams to produce squib kicks whenever they’re needed.
With so much going on, Till says it’ll be important for Richmond to be aware at all times and maybe even move a little slower towards the ball whenever Jaden Jones and McEachern are in the game at the same time.
Just in case the visitors decide to go for the double pass.
“We’re trying to restructure the way we rep some things in practice to give us a better idea of what (Pine Forest) does that might give us some problems,” Till added. “The big thing will be containing the quarterbacks since both of them run really well. It won’t just be about coverage … And open-field tackles will be big as well since they spread the ball out a lot.”
The Raiders will be looking to use the fact that Pine Forest has guys stretched across different positions to their advantage.
Sophomore linebacker C.J. Tillman — who has ran the ball six times for 67 yards in the first two games — has been the only Richmond player so far who’s seen action on both sides of the ball, so they should be well-rested in their quest for win No. 2
Although sophomore quarterback Caleb Hood has played as advertised, senior wideout Bobby Terry is now healthy, and senior receiver Preston Coker has shown that he can run past the defense on any given down, Till is still looking for the offensive unit to “gel a little better” when its on the field.
“We’re doing some really good things, and you’re seeing some great individual plays, but I still want to see them take on a certain personality,” Till said. “Our coaches are doing a great job working towards that … and we know there’s a ceiling here that can really be pushed if those guys can figure some things out.”
The hope is that Richmond’s offense can continue to come out firing on all cylinders on its opening drive.
Junior running back Jaheim Covington found the end zone with only a minute gone off the clock in the season opener against Reagan, and Terry caught a touchdown pass 70 seconds into last week’s game at Wake Forest — both scores happening on the third play of the respective possessions.
If the Raiders are able to do that, Till believes, they can build on the momentum as the game moves along.
“I want to continue to see progress every week. It doesn’t matter how well we play, we can still get better at something,” he added. “We had some really good spurts (last week), but I want to see us play the entire game well in all three phases.”
NOTE: Advance tickets for Friday’s game can be purchased at Mabry’s Drug, Family Pharmacy, Medical Center Pharmacy and Richmond Senior High School.
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.