ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior officials may want to make sure all the lights are working on the scoreboard at Raider Stadium.
Richmond and Vance are averaging a combined 81 points a game this season heading into tonight’s contest.
In last year’s matchup, the Raiders and the Cougars followed big plays with more big plays as the home team pulled out a 41-33 victory.
On the second play from scrimmage, Vance quarterback Laquell Thames connected with Trey Foggie for a 67-yard touchdown reception.
Richmond responded with an 80-yard touchdown run by Miles Grant. Vance then answered with an 80-yard scoring run of its own by Oquan Bratton.
Those weren’t the only big plays in the contest as both team combined to score 57 points before halftime, including an eye-popping 47 in the first quarter.
Richmond’s Diquon Cox had a 67-yard touchdown run as well as a 90-yard kickoff return for a score. Brent Flowers found Raheem Bowden for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Even the Raiders’ defense got in on the act, as Isaiah Brewington returned an interception 40 yards for the go-ahead score.
But that was then and this is now.
Vance has a new coach — Aaron Brand — and the team has scrapped the Wing-T offense for a more modern shotgun spread offense.
Brand spent the last four years as an assistant at Mallard Creek and helped the team to its first 4AA state championship last season.
Brand is no stranger to lining up against Richmond. Before his time at Mallard Creek, Brand was an assistant at Independence and was the head coach at West Charlotte in 2008. Richmond crushed West Charlotte 63-12 en route to winning its seventh state championship.
Before the season started, Brand believed his team could continue the success it had under former coach Keith Wilkes. The Cougars were 6-6 last year and lost in the opening round of the 4AA state playoffs. Vance was 9-4 in 2012 and advanced to the second round.
“I like our confidence and quick adjustments to new offenses and new defenses,” Brand said to the Charlotte Observer. “It’s the same kids I’ve seen everywhere I’ve been. The first thing they think is ‘What is this guy talking about?’ But you see the eagerness in their faces so they can get it right. They just need a little structure and a road map to getting it right.”
Vance defeated West Mecklenburg 47-0 in Week 1 and followed that with a 53-7 win over Hunter Huss. The only touchdown the Cougars have surrendered this season was on an 89-yard kickoff return after their first score against the Huskies.
Offensively, Vance has scored in a variety of ways.
In the season-opening victory, running back Donnavan Spencer led the charge. The junior had 10 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown. He added two receptions for 16 yards. Quarterback Omar Baker, who won a three-person battle for the job, was 10 of 16 passing for 150 yards and two scores. Baker also had a rushing touchdown.
Against the Huskies, the Cougars relied on Baker’s throwing arm. The senior was connected on 18 of 27 attempts for 197 yards and four touchdowns. Myles Dorn reeled in three of those passes, all for touchdowns.
“They’re a very impressive looking team,” Richmond coach Paul Hoggard said. “They’re as good looking on the hoof as anybody you’ll see. All their position players look like they should be playing that position. Their linemen look like linemen. Their backers look like linebackers. Their DBs look like DBs and so forth and so on.”
Richmond, on the other hand, has been doing all of its damage offensively behind its rushing attack. Senior running back Miles Grant scored the first six touchdowns this season for Richmond until Quientel Goodwin and Luke Hoggard found the end zone against Marlboro County last week.
Goodwin finished with a game-high 134 yards in eight carries against the Bulldogs and Grant added 115 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The Raiders racked up 387 yards on the ground in the win.
Paul Hoggard liked the way his running backs “got every yard they could squeeze out.”
On the other side of the ball, Richmond’s defense kept Marlboro in check, allowing 277 yards and defensive back Daryus Skinner returned a fumble for a touchdown. It was the first time the Raiders have held an opponent under 300 yards of offense since giving up 189 in the loss at Pinecrest last season.
“We flew around and hit people pretty good,” Paul Hoggard said.
Just as in last season’s game when an overthrown pass led to the go-ahead score, Paul Hoggard believes tonight’s clash should be just as close.
“I think we’re going to have to play extremely well, they are a very talented team,” he said. “And I think it’ll take a great effort for us to be competitive with them. They are very similar to us from a (defensive) scheme standpoint. They have been I guess you could say well up in all the games they have played so you don’t if they have shown everything they do or not. They will be a very good-looking football team.”
In other games involving Southeastern Conference schools, Scotland will try to improve to 3-0 on the season when it plays host to Marlboro County. Pinecrest will also look to stay unbeaten when it welcomes Beddingfield to Southern Pines. Lumberton will try to run its record to 3-0 when it heads to South View. Purnell Swett will attempt to win its second straight when Hoggard visits Pembroke. Hoke will travel up the road to take on Seventy-First.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.