After a physical contest against West Forsyth, Richmond Senior will have a week to get ready for its Southeastern Conference opener on Sept. 28 against Hoke County.
This is the second consecutive season the Raiders are 5-0 heading into their open date and it should not be surprising considering the strength of their nonconference schedule.
Richmond’s five opponents are a combined 11-14, with Anson and South View both sporting 1-4 marks. Lee County, Sun Valley and West Forsyth are all 3-2 heading into Week 6.
A peek at those school’s records from last year shows they were 10-15 after five games. The Bearcats were once again 1-4, while the Spartans were the only ones above the .500 mark at 3-2. The Tigers, the Titans and the Yellow Jackets were all 2-3.
Do not think the coaching staff and administration went out looking for lambs to bring in for the Raiders to slaughter. When this season’s schedule was made a few years ago, no one could have thought South View or Anson would be struggling to find victories.
As much as fans would enjoy seeing the Raiders lineup against the Butlers, New Berns and Mallard Creeks of the state, those type of matchups are generally not possible because usually when Richmond calls, schedule vacancies quickly fill up with other opponents. Besides the traditional contests with Anson and Lee County, Richmond coach Paul Hoggard and athletic director Kevin Mabe regularly burn through their cell phone minutes looking for someone, anyone to play.
Despite those difficulties, the Raiders’ nonconference schedule is not the weakest in the SEC. That honor belongs to the other undefeated team in the league — Hoke County. Going into Friday’s contest with Westover, the Bucks’ opposition has a record of 6-24.
Hoke County will not face a team with a winning record until it heads into Raider Stadium next week. You can toss Lumberton and Scotland into the fray as well of having “relatively easy” non-league contests, but unlike the Bucks, those schools have lined up against squads with winning records.
The Pirates are 4-1 with their lone loss coming at the hands of Jack Britt. The rest of their opponents so far this season are a mixed bag, posting a combined 8-17 record. Cape Fear and Seventy-First are both winless, while South View has one win in five tries. Lumberton’s lone victory against a team with a winning record came last week against Athens Drive, which is now 3-2.
The Fighting Scots like Lumberton is also 4-1 and their early-season slate featured contests with two top 10 4A teams, New Hanover and Jack Britt, as well as two squads which have one win between them in 10 games, Anson and Seventy-First. Scotland’s nonconference opponents are currently 11-12 on the year.
Only Pinecrest (3-2) and Purnell Swett (2-3) have schedules which can be considered among the best in the state from top to bottom. The combined record for Pinecrest’s nonconference opponents is 19-10, while Purnell Swett’s is 15-8.
The Patriots will have faced four teams — Jack Britt, Cox Mill, Reagan and New Hanover — with at least four wins before their SEC opener against Lumberton. The Rams are just behind them with three opponents — Pine Forest, Hoggard and New Hanover — with four victories.
If you consider the full slate of contests, Purnell Swett’s opponents are currently 36-12 on the season, a winning percentage of 75 percent. Pinecrest is right behind at 72.2 percent (39-15).
All of the SEC schools’ schedule strength increases dramatically when you include conference games, with Lumberton (27-23), Richmond (29-21) and Scotland (30-18) moving above the .500 mark. Only Hoke County (24-31) stays below that threshold at .436.
Time will tell if the Patriots and the Rams will be able to translate their difficult schedules into SEC wins or if taking the “easy road” will pay off for everyone else.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org