ROCKINGHAM — For the first time in 16 years, Richmond Senior enters its annual contest with Scotland looking for revenge.
The Fighting Scots ended an 18-game losing streak with a 41-7 victory over the Raiders at Pate Stadium in last year’s regular-season finale. The win propelled Scotland to its first 4A state championship.
That was a season ago and the majority of the key cogs in the Fighting Scots’ offense and defense have moved on as did coach Chip Williams.
While the faces may have changed, the stakes are still the same. Tonight’s winner will not only grab bragging rights for another year, but will capture the Southeastern Conference championship and a high seed in next week’s state playoffs.
Richmond coach Paul Hoggard believes his team understands there is more on the line than just revenge.
“I think they realize what is at stake,” Hoggard said. “You don’t want them to get all caught up in the hype because it is a football game.”
While Scotland was able to end its skid against Richmond last season, Richard Bailey will be looking to break his. The former Jack Britt coach has yet to beat the Raiders in nine attempts. Bailey appeared set to stop the slide in grand fashion in the 2008 4AA state title game before Richmond pulled out a 38-35 win in the final minute.
“Me and about 200 other coaches in the state haven’t beaten Richmond,” Bailey said laughing. “I have never been part of win against them, but a few of them have been really close and competitive. Many times we were just over-matched, but later in the series, we were better. The 2008 championship game, we felt we had them until ‘Raider Magic’ got us. And I remember the game when they got a tipped ball for an interception and returned it for a touchdown to beat us 7-0.”
This year’s contest is expected to be a battle of wills.
Scotland sports the SEC’s best defense, which is allowing 9.7 points a game, while Richmond has the highest scoring offense, lighting up the scoreboard for an average of 45.6 points a contest.
In their last two games, the Raiders have struggled to close out drives. Richmond has scored 57 points in those two victories and seven of those came on an interception return for a touchdown to seal the Pinecrest victory.
“We have to take what the opposition gives us and we aren’t doing a good job with that right now,” Hoggard said. “The previous two weeks I guess the players felt like they could just show up and play. This week, I think we have had some of our best practices we have had since the Hoke game.”
Richmond will once again be without one of its top rushers tonight. Elijah Goodwin, who is third on the team with 438 yards and seven touchdowns, will be on the sidelines against Scotland after suffering a concussion last week.
While the Raiders will be without Goodwin, running back Dakwa Nichols is expected to return to the lineup. Nichols saw action briefly against Lumberton, rushing six times for 31 yards. Hoggard said he will use Nichols as much as possible in the game, although he admits it may not be long since the senior has missed three full games and the majority of two others.
Despite losing offensive weapons like SEC Player of the Year Kwashaun Quick, Tony McRae and Caison Murphy, the Fighting Scots are still scoring at a good clip. Scotland is averaging 33.6 points per game led by this season’s stars: Jaylend Ratliffe, Tra’Shawn Gregory, Jalen McLean and Josh McPhatter.
“They are the best offense we have seen this year,” Richmond defensive coordinator James Johnson said. “They have two tall wide receivers, a quarterback that can run and pass the ball and a couple of quick running backs.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.