ROCKINGHAM — Reigning 4AA state champion Mallard Creek may have defeated Butler 35-20 in a non-conference clash during Week 2, but head coach Michael Palmieri had nothing but good things to say when speaking of the Bulldogs.
“He (Palmieri) thinks they’re a state championship contender right now,” coach Mike Castellano said. “And that’s coming from a guy who’s won the last three (state championships) and is favored to win this one.”
Butler (2-1) is coming off a 34-7 victory at Western Alamance, where junior Nijere Peoples carried the ball 20 times for 170 yards and three scores. Richmond (3-0) tallied 489 yards and eased its way to a 62-0 shutout over Douglas Byrd last Thursday.
This game shouldn’t be as easy for either team.
“We’re going to have to play hard, trust what we’re coached to do and compete,” Castellano said. “We’re going into a hostile environment. It’s going to be packed in that staidum and we’re going to have some guys that are looking to beat us. That happens every week, but not with the purpose these guys are going to bring.”
One of Butler’s main threats, Davis Cheek, stands in the pocket at 6-feet, 2-inches and 182 pounds. The senior quarterback, an Elon commit, threw for four scores in the Bulldog’s season-opening win and 278 yards against Mallard Creek.
“He’s a really good football player,” Castellano said. “He’s a guy who has a lot of composure and throws a great ball — whether it be a deep ball, the quick game or the screen game. He makes up for any mistakes they might have up front by (having) good pocket movement.”
Richmond’s first three opponents all relied heavily on their run game to get the job done.
Butler, on the other hand, has an offense that Castellano believes can “do everything.” Facing a team that looks downfield and pounds it on the ground will be a different test for the Raiders’ defensive unit.
“The one thing they have, that may be different from some schools, is they don’t have one great receiver. They’ve got three or four that can take the top off the defense and get the ball downfield quick,” he added.
However, just like every other week, Castellano and his coaching staff tries not to spend too much time on what opposing teams and their players bring to the table.
The Raiders are focusing on executing the play call and getting better each day.
In its lopsided win over Douglas Byrd, Richmond saw Leon Zeigler throw for five touchdowns, nine runners combine for a total of 270 rushing yards, and its defense hold the Eagles to just 76 total yards on offense.
That bodes well for the Raiders’ confidence going into Friday night’s matchup.
“I think we’re continuing to learn how to practice. And that’s something that we’ve really emphasized the last two weeks — is learning how to practice properly,” Castellano said. “That’s something I think the guys have gotten a little bit better at each day. So, I think our tempo has gotten better than what it has been.”
Both Butler and Richmond enter the game ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press’ state high school football poll. The Bulldogs come in at No. 6, while the Raiders are right behind them at No. 7.
“They’re well-coached, they’re big and they’re very athletic,” Castellano explained. “This may be the best team we’ll face all year. It’ll be a great challenge.”
FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE
Butler does not have any pre-sale or advance tickets for Friday night’s game.
Ticket sales begin at 5:30 p.m., as they will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Re-entry — along with umbrellas, book bags and outside food or drinks — will not be allowed.
“We’re getting treated a little bit different, but we’re excited to have the Richmond community out there supporting us. We hope they get there early and get an opportunity to get in the stadium.” Castellano said. “And I hope we have a great showing for them.”
The contest kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
The Richmond Senior football team looks to keep its undefeated season alive when it travels to Butler on Friday, Sept. 9. The Raiders fell 32-13 to the Bulldogs at home last season.