ROCKINGHAM — Fourteen points, two interceptions and a fumble is all which separates Pinecrest from possible victories over Richmond Senior the last two seasons.
The Patriots were driving for the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute to play two years ago when Steve Houston picked off a tipped pass at the Raider 1-yard line to seal to a 12-7 win. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Pinecrest’s Joe White fumbled inside of the Richmond 5 and the ball trickled into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.
Last season, Pinecrest was once again in position to pull off the upset, but a pick-six by Robert Williams in the final moments thwarted those hopes as Richmond held on 27-18.
Pinecrest coach Chris Metzger said those two close calls mean very little heading into tonight’s clash.
“We aren’t focused on the past,” he said. “We know Coach (Paul) Hoggard and his staff will have his team prepared. It’s a great opportunity for us. We are approaching every game like it’s the Super Bowl. It’s a great opportunity for our kids to take on one of the winningest programs and a top-5 team in the state.”
The Patriots haven’t defeated the Raiders since the 2008 season when they pulled off a 31-28 road victory. Pinecrest’s only other victory in the 35-game series came in 1992, 27-26.
Hoggard expects this one to be as close as the previous two contests have been. He credits the Patriots offense, which has scored a school-record 414 points this season with two games remaining, for helping them get off to an 8-1 start.
“They do a great job because their kids understand what they are supposed to do,” Hoggard said. “Their kids typically play lights out against us. I’ll be shocked if it isn’t another tight game.”
Pinecrest is led by quarterback Christian Ledbetter, who has rushed for 502 yards and a team-leading 14 touchdowns. The sophomore has added a throwing element to the Patriot attack, connecting on 57 of 105 attempts for 937 yards and 13 scores.
Running back Josh McCoy has added 680 yards and six scores. Troy Roper is a dual threat for Pinecrest, rushing for 568 yards and grabbing a team-high 17 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think they really like the way he runs the offense,” Richmond defensive coordinator Mark Arthur said about Ledbetter. “I really haven’t seen them put the ball on the ground. They seem like they will grind it out and wait on you to make a mistake, then they will pop it on you.”
The Raiders are expected to have Brent Flowers back in the lineup after he missed the Lumberton contest with an injured thumb. Middle linebacker John Taylor will miss his second straight game as he recovers from a knee injury suffered against Purnell Swett.
Richmond rolls in JV game
ROCKINGHAM — Quientel Goodwin ran for three touchdowns to spark the Richmond Senior junior varsity team to a 41-21 win over Pinecrest Thursday night.
Shawn Faulk and Jayvon Boyer each added a rushing touchdown for the Raiders (9-0, 4-0). Tyler Calhoun connected with Lavell Ellerbe on a 10-yard pass to account for Richmond’s other score.
“That was a good team,” Richmond JV coach Jason Norton said of the Patriots. “They came in 7-1 and took Scotland to overtime. They are a good team and schemed up pretty good against us.”
Richmond will close out its season against arch-rival Scotland 7 p.m. Thursday at Raider Stadium.
Rockets ground Red Rams
HAMLET — The Rockingham Rockets defeated the Hamlet Red Rams 30-6 Wednesday afternoon in a middle school football contest.
Devin McNair had a touchdown rushing and receiving to lead the way for the Rockets (4-1). Bobby Terry scored twice on the ground and Dante Miller also notched a touchdown.
Hamlet falls in title game
LAURINBURG — The Sycamore Lane Middle School girls volleyball team swept Hamlet Middle School in the conference championship Thursday afternoon.
The Bucks won the match 25-15, 25-19, 25-20.
The leading servers for the Red Rams were: Altman Griffin with 17 points and two aces and Owen Bowers with 11 points and two aces.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.