Nine games. Nine wins. Third in the latest Associated Press poll.
And more importantly, playing the archrival for the conference championship.
Yet there seems to be something amiss with the Richmond Senior football team.
Bad snaps, bobbled snaps, overthrows, underthrows and ill-timed penalties have stymied an high-powered offense the last two weeks. Toss in the first quarter of the Purnell Swett contest and the Raiders have been seemingly stuck in neutral.
After beating the Rams, Richmond was averaging 50.6 points a game, in the next two contests, it has scored a total of 57 points. Take away Robert Williams’ interception return for a touchdown late in the game against Pinecrest and the Raiders have 50 points on offense.
What is the difference? Is it play calling? Player performance and execution? Better competition? Missing injured running back Dakwa Nichols? All of the above?
A peek inside the numbers shows Richmond has run the ball an average of 36 times a contest this season. Against the Pirates and the Patriots, the Raiders attempted 35 and 37 rushes, respectively. Richmond was able to rack up 303 rushing yards against Lumberton, but was limited to a season-low 177 by Pinecrest.
The 37 carries are tied for the third-most by the Raiders. Richmond had 44 rushes against West Forsyth and 39 versus South View. The other time they ran 37 times was against Hoke County, a game Richmond coach Paul Hoggard felt his offense played as well as it has in nine games.
Perhaps the Raiders have been reluctant to pass the ball recently. On the year, Richmond averages just over 13 pass attempts a game. Against the Pirates, quarterback Brent Flowers put the ball in the air 11 times and had 10 attempts Friday against the Patriots.
The junior’s accuracy has been good all season, connecting on 65 percent of his passes. However, Flowers has tossed an interception in all four conference contests.
This trend has certainly forced the Richmond coaching staff to rein in their downfield passing game because it seems like every opportunity to “air it out” in the last four games ended up in the opposition’s hands.
Against Pinecrest, Flowers hit a handful of screen passes and short routes. If it wasn’t for the ability of receivers Trent Bostick, Elijah Goodwin and Kole Stanley to make plays after the catch, Flowers passing yards could have been closer to 100, rather than 200.
But Flowers isn’t the sole reason for the Raiders’ struggles on offense. Snaps have launched over his head, linemen have missed blocks leading to negative plays and runners have missed gaping holes in the opposition’s line.
Hoggard for several weeks has been telling anyone who will listen his biggest fear isn’t anyone who will lineup against his team, but rather one inside his own locker room — his team’s focus and approach each week.
All of Raider Nation hoped the first-quarter scare from Purnell Swett and a closer than expected result with Lumberton would be enough to keep Richmond on track down the stretch.
Perhaps the biggest game of the year with the SEC crown and a high playoff seeding on the line will be enough to get the Raiders focused.
If not, Richmond could be doomed to repeat last season’s results against Scotland and in the postseason.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.