After scoring one touchdown in the opening quarter against Purnell Swett, one of two winless schools in Southeastern Conference play, Richmond Senior reminded its fanbase that they are still teenagers which will have their share of peaks and valleys.
The Raiders rebounded from their sluggish start to take a 35-0 advantage into halftime.
It wasn’t a long pass from Brent Flowers to one of his receivers or a big run from Diquon Cox or Elijah Goodwin that got Richmond on track. Instead, a return for a touchdown from an unlikely source got the Raiders on their way.
Mikey Steele scooped up a blocked field goal attempt at the Richmond 7 and went running down the sideline doing his best Dakwa Nichols imitation. Steele was forced to hurdle a possible tackler along the way, picked up a few blocks from his teammates and raced in for touchdown.
Sometimes a play like that is all it takes to grab the attention of 50-plus teenagers. Richmond’s offense began to emerge from its cocoon after Steele’s return and the Raiders’ defense also started to play with a sense of urgency to post its second shutout of the season.
Richmond coach Paul Hoggard has been saying all season his team’s biggest opponent is themselves and their lack of focus at times.
The contest with the Rams was the classic example of the Raiders allowing their thoughts to wonder for the first 12 minutes before locking in the rest of the way.
If Richmond wants to avoid last season’s pitfalls of finishing second in the Southeastern Conference and having a first-round exit from the 4A state playoffs, it has to make sure to play with focus from the opening whistle to the final horn.
This request may be hard to fulfill.
The Raiders have at times played down to the level of their competition. Coming off a sparkling first-quarter performance against Hoke County, Richmond failed to match that same intensity a week later.
“This was a tough game,” Hoggard said. “They’re (Purnell Swett) struggling and our kids know it. It wasn’t the most hyped game but once we settled in, we got going.”
Lumberton will pose the same problem for Richmond as Purnell Swett did, playing a struggling team on the road with very little to gain and a whole lot to lose.
For the Raiders to be in the state title mix, this is a game the Raiders have to come out running out of the starting blocks at full speed and to put the Pirates in their rearview mirrors.
We will see what Friday brings and which Richmond teams shows up at Alton G. Brooks Stadium.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.