MINT HILL — Late in the third quarter of Friday night’s game, Steven Jones turned what initially looked like a dead punt into a much-needed score for the Richmond Senior football team.
Jones’ 65-yard punt return gave Richmond some breathing room, putting the Raiders up 35-21 heading into the final period.
“We tell our guys to make a good decision in that situation and Jones did,” coach Mike Castellano said. “Our guys had great effort to turn around, peel back and block for him. Any time we can make a play, it helps us.”
A Damontre Bennett run from four yards out, his third rushing touchdown of the night, would put the finishing touches on Richmond’s 42-21 victory over non-conference opponent Rocky River.
“We’re happy to get a win, but I thought we didn’t execute well,” coach Mike Castellano said. “We had way too many penalties and left way too many plays on the field.”
First game jitters spread throughout both teams, as a handful of plays were called dead because of players being offsides or brought back due to holding and blocking in the back.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys playing, but that’s not an excuse,” Castellano added. “We have to get better from this week to next week.”
The game got off to a fast start, as both teams combined to score 42 points in the first quarter.
Rocky River’s Elijah Henry got the home team on the board first with a two-yard scamper into the end zone. The Ravens failed to convert on the extra point attempt, putting them up 6-0.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to respond, as Leon Zeigler and Steven Jones hooked up for a 67-yard touchdown pass on the third play of Richmond’s opening drive. Alex Alvarado’s field goal sailed through the uprights and gave Richmond a 7-6 lead.
After James Maye took a screen pass from Tyshawn Carter to the house, helping Rocky River take back the lead, the Raiders marched down the field and handed it off to Bennett — who punched it in from the 1-yard line to tie things up at 14.
Richmond’s defense forced the Ravens to punt on the next possession, which led to Bennett breaking loose for a 75-yard touchdown run.
“I appreciate the O-Line for blocking — I liked that,” Bennett said. “But I feel like I could get better. There’s more stuff I need to work on.”
With 59.3 seconds left in the first quarter, the Raiders took a 28-14 lead when Deandre Streeter blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone.
“We try to put pressure of them,” Castellano explained. “A lot of teams are going to watch this film, so they get to see that we do multiple things on special teams — and they’ll have to work on that.”
Carter would score the Raven’s final touchdown, a 1-yard run, on their first possession of the second half. The senior quarterback threw for 185 yards and ran for 86 yards.
Bennett led the rushing attack for the Raiders, carrying the ball 11 times for 131 yards. Zeigler completed 14 of his 23 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders’ defense recorded three sacks and one interception.
Richmond (1-0) faces Anson at 7:30 p.m. next Friday, Aug. 26, at Raider Stadium, while Rocky River (0-1) will prepare for its first away game of the season at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology.
“We’ve got to get better at what we do,” Castellano said. “We had too many missed assignments. And that’s the main thing, making sure we get lined up properly on both sides of the ball…and execute what the coaches are trying to teach.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.