HIGH POINT — After closing the year on a three-game winning to finish 6-2, then making it to last week’s third-place game of the North Carolina AAU state tournament, Kerick Hairston and his Richmond Youth Raiders 8-and-under team saw their season come to an end.
The group fell 26-0 to Scotland County’s AAU youth football team, Sandhills Seahawks, who is now heading to the national tournament that begins on Dec. 11 in Florida.
Hairston lamented not having the services of five starters that were key elements during the postseason run, but says the year was a positive step in the right direction.
“I feel like we did great overall. I had baseball players and made them football players,” said Hairston.
“For half of my team to be in their first year playing (football), they did great. They exceeded expectations.”
The national tournament will run through Dec. 15., and the Seahawks will play at least four games.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” Sandhills Seahawks founder Kasey Monroe said of the team’s success. “It speaks volumes about the coaches and the players.
“The feeling is still surreal.”
The 8U Seahawks are coached by Billy Norris. The young Seahawks got their first taste of competitive football this season, and they’ve come a long way since they first started.
Monroe and the rest of the coaches have seen their players develop a passion for football.
“It’s been like watching a kid at Christmas,” Monroe said. “They just mesh. They’ve got each other’s back.”
Meanwhile, Hairston says it was a pleasure coaching the inexperienced Raiders who steadily grew each week.
“All of them were able to learn, they wanted to learn and that’s all I needed,” he said. “With them willing to learn, I was willing to coach them, and that’s what made our season so great.”
Kaleb Hairston finished the season as the Raiders top offensive weapon, ending with 1,467 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
Quarterback Jaxton Watson passed for a team-high 623 yards and six touchdowns. Maurice Lemon was a vital two-way threat, leading the Raiders with 102 tackles and 478 receiving yards with three touchdowns.
Latavian Watkins was a versatile piece who tallied 732 yards total yards. Willie Hooks, Charles Bloomfield, Tyree Quick and Noah Bostic helped by combining for 41 sacks and 16 forced fumbles.
The Seahawks are putting on a fundraiser to help with the cost of the 8U team’s trip to Florida. The goal is $5,000. The funds will help with all aspects of the trip — travel, lodging, meals and even a one-day ticket to Disney World.
As a part of a fundraiser to help cover travel costs, the Seahawks are auctioning off a jersey autographed by former Richmond Senior High School football player and current Los Angeles Charger Melvin Ingram.
Monroe said any type of support is valuable as the Seahawks prepare for nationals.
“We just continue to ask the community for prayers,” Monroe said.
Donnell Coley can be reached at 910-817-2671 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @Sportsinmyveins.