Following Friday’s loss to arch-rival Scotland, Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard reminded his team the playoffs started a new season and everyone is 0-0.
While his words were upbeat, the look on his face showed something else. He was downcast and hurting. Not for himself but for his players.
For three straight seasons now, Richmond went into its annual battle with Scotland with the Southeastern Conference championship on the line. And three consecutive times now, the Fighting Scots have walked off the field as winners.
That is just the way it goes sometimes between rivals and right now Scotland is the class of the SEC. Will the Fighting Scots be able to match the Raiders’ 18-game winning streak? Probably not, but then again, no one could have thought Richmond would have reeled off that many consecutive victories either.
As Hoggard collected his thoughts to address the media after talking to his players, a woman approached him because she needed to speak with him. She figured this would be a good time as any to publicly question his offense, his play-calling and just about anything else she could think of during that moment.
Even though this parent, sibling, family member or friend of a current player had the best intentions, she selected the wrong forum to take a stand. Instead of doing it after a game, schedule an appointment to have a discussion, send an email or pick up the phone to speak with the coaching staff.
She is not the only one who seems to have an issue with the direction of this program. A glance at the comments on the Richmond-Scotland story on the Daily Journal website or message boards would indicate other members of Raider Nation have taken issue with the direction of the program and its coaches.
It was just a year ago Richmond was 11-1 and two victories away from playing for its eighth state championship. And now some of the faithful fans are back on the “Fire Hoggard” bandwagon which was started in 2011 after the Raiders were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by Northwest Guilford.
Granted it can be a difficult pill to swallow for some Richmond fans, there are times when the team in Green and Gold isn’t the best one on the field. As a fan, you don’t want to admit your team lost the game, it is easier to point the finger elsewhere such as blaming the officials, the weather or your own coaches.
On that November night two years ago, Northwest Guilford was the best. That doesn’t mean man-for-man they outclassed the Raiders, but rather the Vikings executed better, recovered from mistakes better and made the plays they needed to escape with the win.
That defeat showed unlike years past when Richmond was able to overcome turnovers, penalties and other miscues to win, the margin of error today is razor thin. And since the magical championship run in 2008, the Raiders have been on the wrong side of the scoreboard a few more times than the coaches or fans would like to have seen.
There are other times when Richmond can play at its best and it will still come up short, simply because it doesn’t have enough playmakers to matchup against its opponent.
Two years ago, I wrote a two-part article stating the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system was producing more Division I recruits than anyone else in the state. And for that reason, the power base in 4AA football shifted away from Richmond County and right into the heart of downtown Charlotte.
Since the articles appeared, Butler captured its third state championship in four years and the 10th in 13 seasons for schools from Mecklenburg County. And Mallard Creek has been ranked No. 1 for the majority of the last two years and is favored to break through to win its first title this season.
For some this is too much to bear because for many years, Richmond was, and to some still is, high school football in North Carolina. The Raiders are still relevant on the state’s high school football stage, but now there are several more teams looking to share the spotlight.
Because of this fans need to remember reaching the state championship game is not a birthright, instead it has to be earned each season.
— 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.