ROCKINGHAM — With Friday night’s showdown at Butler being the Richmond football team’s final non-conference game, head coach Bryan Till says it’s now time for his group to take that next step when facing “state-championship caliber teams.”
The narrative should no longer be that Richmond put up a bunch of points and was able to stick around for a while; or its comeback fell short after finding a rhythm in the second half; or a late mistake cost it a chance to win.
From here on out, Till wants to see the Raiders take down teams they’re likely to see deep in the state playoffs.
“I think it’s really important for us to win this ball game. It’s time to stop playing close with state-championship caliber teams and starting beating them,” he said. “This win would go a long way going into (our) conference (schedule) because it’ll say that we really are pushing to become one of those state-championship caliber teams.”
Richmond (2-1) is coming off of a shutout win over Pine Forest last week, 28-0, that tested its mental toughness early on, seeing that yards and first downs were had to come by during its first three offensive possessions.
Eventually, though, things started opening up for junior running back Jaheim Covington and sophomore quarterback Caleb Hood — the two players who took care of all of the scoring on the night. Covington went on to run for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Hood found the end zone twice on 11 carries for a net 28 yards.
Defensively, the Raiders smothered the Pine Forest offense from start to finish — only allowing 96 yards of total offense and ending the night with 11 tackles for loss, eight sacks, a fumble recovery that almost went for a score.
They’ll be looking to bring that same kind of grit and grind to the field when they travel to Matthews.
“We saw how hard it was to shut those guys out last week. Those first couple of drive were tough, but we kept playing and good things happened … We want to build off that,” Till said. “The game of football isn’t won by just those showcase plays, it’s won by the grind through all four quarters. Hopefully we realize that’s what it’s going to take for us to win.”
Butler (1-1) has had to fight through some adversity as well in the season’s early going.
After running past Scotland in their season opener, a dominant 47-19 victory, the Bulldogs faced off against Mallard Creek in Week 2 and found themselves trailing by 27 points in the first half. Despite cutting the deficit to only a score before the break, the Bulldogs’ efforts weren’t enough and they ultimately dropped a 36-28 decision.
Seniors Christian Peters, quarterback, and Keyon Lesane, wide receiver, and juniors Jamal Worthy and Quasean Holmes, both running backs, were instrumental in Butler’s attempt to turn the tide against Mallard Creek. Peters found Lesane — a N.C. State commit — and Worthy for a couple touchdown passes, and Worthy and Holmes scored on the ground.
All four Butler players are members of an offensive unit that does “just a little bit of everything.”
“Coach (Brian) Hales is a really good offensive playcaller, so we’re trying to get our kids to understand what they’re trying to do with their motions. We can’t get outflanked,” Till explained. “Those guys are very aware of what they’re trying to do. If you screw up, they’re going to take advantage and go to the house in a hurry.”
Friday’s meeting between Richmond and Butler will be the sixth time in as many seasons the two schools have battled one another in the regular season. Butler has won the last three, Richmond won a thrilling 55-54 overtime battle four years ago, and the Bulldogs took home a 17-point victory in 2013.
The key to coming out on top this time around, and establishing themselves as one of those teams that have a real shot at competing for a state title, will be how well the Raiders have paid attention during this week’s preparation.
“We’ve put some extra time in to be prepared for this game. You have to know your opponent,” Till added. “They have some great athletes … and we respect that. So with those type of kids, we’ve got to go meet their intensity every down.”
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.