ROCKINGHAM — The varsity football game against Douglas Byrd, which was scheduled to take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Fayetteville, has been moved up to Thursday at 6:30 p.m. due to inclement weather concerns.
“We’re excited to play — regardless of whenever they tell us to play,” coach Mike Castellano said. “We’re only guaranteed so many of these, so we’re going to be ready.”
The second-year coach is expecting his team’s third game of the season to be won in the trenches, since Douglas Byrd (0-2) uses its offensive line and never-ending rushing attack to try and wear opponents down.
Junior running back Jerry Roberts — who Castellano called a “warrior” — leads the team in rushing in its first two games, carrying the ball 44 times for 308 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback David Badalucco has only thrown the ball seven times on the season — completing two of them.
“At the end of the day, they want to challenge your manhood and come right at you,” Castellano said. “Our front seven on defense has to play more physical and play better. That is the key, for me, in this game. If we can do that, then I think we have an opportunity to be more successful on offense.”
Richmond (2-0) faced a run-heavy team in its game last week, as Anson saw seven players combine to run the ball 41 times for 171 yards. Running back Ravon Kirkland broke many tackles on his way to 102 of those yards.
Although the Bearcats threw the ball 24 times in the game, more than triple the number of Douglas Byrd’s passing attempts this season, defending Anson’s run game has helped Richmond in its preparation for Thursday.
“We have to step up and match their physicality with some physical play of our own,” Castellano said.
Stopping the run won’t be the only point of emphasis for the Raiders’ defense, however.
Castellano and his coaching staff continue to work the secondary as if it were facing a pass-heavy offense. They understand that Douglas Byrd could look downfield in order to spice things up and catch Richmond off guard.
“A defensive back is one of the most disciplined positions on the field, because at any point, one play could beat you and make the band play for the other team,” Castellano said. “Every play is expected to be a pass. When you get lazy and start staring in the backfield, that’s when you get beat.”
As for offensive preparation, Castellano has kept it simple.
“We’re going to take what they give us,” he explained. “When teams stack the box and do a great job of putting people near the line of scrimmage, we have to loosen them up with the passing game, the screen game and other concepts. Coach (Steve) Burdeau does a great job of taking what the defense will give you. But when he calls it, we have to execute it.”
The air attack worked well for the Raiders in their last game, as quarterback Leon Zeigler went 16-26 for 150 yards and three touchdowns. The running game could never get going, but Castellano expects that to be different this week — assuming his defensive unit prevents long drives.
“We’ve got to do a great job of playing against a team that’s physical and tries to slow the game down. We have to get off the field, so we give our offense more opportunities to be successful,” he said. “We’re spending way too much time on the field, defensively, and not giving our offense enough time to be able to dictate the game plan.”
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The Richmond Senior football team has been preparing for a Douglas Byrd team that heavily relies on its run game to wear opponents out. Coach Mike Castellano has been stressing the importance of his defensive unit winning the battle in the trenches.