Saturday, 14 September 2019 00:31

Covington, No. 1 Raiders cruise past No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons behind 'balanced effort'

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Senior Jaheim Covington (33) scored three rushing scores in Friday's 45-28 win over Cardinal Gibbons. Senior Jaheim Covington (33) scored three rushing scores in Friday's 45-28 win over Cardinal Gibbons. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

RALEIGH — The aura of Friday’s Week 4 non-conference finale for the Richmond Senior High School football team was nothing short of an early-season playoff atmosphere. Using the momentum from the sold out seats at Cardinal Gibbons High School, many of whom were traveling Raider fans, the No. 1-ranked Raiders thrived under the pressure to remain unbeaten on the season.

On the road against the No. 3 Crusaders, Richmond was all business in its second road game of the year. In the first ever meeting between the two programs, Richmond used a strong passing game to set up five rushing scores to hand the Crusaders their first loss of the season, 45-28.

As an aside, the 17-point win proved to Richmond’s 17th all-time win in games played on Friday the 13th. 

Head coach Bryan Till and his band of Raiders knew marching into Raleigh that the Crusaders, much like Richmond, wanted to prove themselves as one of the top teams in the state. It was Richmond that controlled the game, however, as the Raiders outmatched a formidable Crusaders’ team on both sides of the ball Friday.

Senior running back Jaheim Covington accounted for a game-high three rushing touchdowns, and was a decisive part in Richmond’s victory.

“I was really proud of the guys with the way they started in the weight room today and how they got off the bus,” Till explained. “We had a great week of practice, and we got a little emotional on a couple plays. But the rest of the night the guys were really on point and doing what they were supposed to do.

“I was also really pleased with the guys who stepped up tonight,” he added of players filling in for injuries. “When you’re talking about the business mentality, they were ready to step in and do their job.”

Another opponent the Raiders faced Friday was penalties, seeing Richmond rack up a season-high 18 penalties for 126 yards. But that didn’t stop the Raider offense, which collected 488 total yards of offense to Cardinal Gibbons’ 348 yards. 

Junior quarterback Caleb Hood had a career night and was responsible for 385 all-purpose yards, going 27-for-34 through the air for a season-high 311 passing yards and one touchdown. That number of completions broke the school record for the most in a single game, which was held by himself and former Raider Tedarius Wiley (24 completions).

Hood connected with seven different receivers, breaking his previous program record for the most receivers to collect a pass from the same quarterback in a game. His first five pass completions went to five different receivers: Kellan Hood, Dalton Stroman, Armond Martin, Gavin Russell and Tremel Jones. He later completed balls to Jakolbe Baldwin and Covington.

The Raiders, who would score on their first three possessions, tallied the only touchdown in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead with 4:28 on the clock. Covington took a pitch left from Hood, rounded the edge of the line and barreled his way in from six yards out. Junior kicker Mack West tacked on the first of his six PATs in the game.

On their next drive, which started in the tail end of the first quarter, the Raiders used catches from junior wide receivers Baldwin, Jones and Stroman, and senior Martin to matriculate the ball down the field. 

From the Crusaders’ 15-yard line, Jones caught his second pass on the drive, one of his season-high six receptions, at the one-yard line. That set up Covington who pushed himself through the pile up the middle to give Richmond a 14-0 lead with 10:30 left in the first half.

Richmond’s defense started the game by forcing Cardinal Gibbons to punt on its opening drive, one three punts in the game. On the next defensive series, junior linebacker CJ Tillman delivered a big hit and senior middle linebacker Joerail White applied pressure to help make the Crusaders turn the ball over on downs at Richmond’s 34-yard line.

Cardinal Gibbons cut Richmond’s lead in half at the 9:19 mark of the second quarter, scoring on a 28-yard passing play from senior quarterback Andrew Harvey to senior running back Jack Grazen.

Hood would extend Richmond’s lead a series later, capping off a five-play, 64-yard scoring drive. On third-and-15, Hood delivered a dime to Stroman down the left sideline for a 38-yard pickup to put the Raiders at the Crusaders’ 31-yard line. 

Two plays later, Hood kept a quarterback keeper, splitting the line left for a 28-yard rushing score. He broke tackles by Chase Jones and Malcolm Reed, and got a big block from Stroman just outside the end zone. With 6:40 left in the second, the Raiders held a 21-7 lead, a score they would carry into half time.

After deferring the ball to the second half, Richmond would take just three plays to go 67 yards and open the game up to a three-possession contest. Stroman scored his team-leading fifth receiving touchdown on a 67-yard strike from Hood. He caught the ball at his own 39-yard line along the far sideline and weaved through traffic to cross into the endzone at the near front pile on.

“It’s really big when we get in short-yardage situations,” Till said of the successful running game. “But the storyline there is the passes that got us into position to make those running touchdowns. We may not have thrown it in end zone, but we had some long passes.

“It was a really balanced effort,” he added. “When we get down there, we really love to stick it in with some heavy sets, things we take a lot of pride in.”

Just as quickly as Richmond scored, Grazen would respond with his second touchdown of the night for the Crusaders. Harvey laced a 20-yard score to Grazen on fourth-and-12 to make it a 28-14 game with 5:42 left in the third stanza.

West, who had already made a 35-yard field goal earlier this season, tacked on three more points on Richmond’s next drive, a 17-play, 50-yard march. His 32-yarder split the uprights and was set up by a fake punt that saw junior Jah’meek Harden take a direct snap and fall forward on fourth-and-three to the Crusaders’ 42-yard line.

Leading 31-14, senior linebacker Dre Bethea would record a pass break up on a ball intended for Jacob Gill to start the next drive. Fellow senior defensive end Javon Little knocked Harvey down a few plays later on fourth-and-10 to force another turnover on downs. 

That gave the Raiders possession on Cardinal Gibbons’ side of the field, which led to Covington’s third and final score of the night. Covington picked up 18 yards on a sprint, his longest carry of the game, and Jones followed with a 17-yard reception. On first-and-goal from the five, Covington gave Richmond a 38-14 lead, its largest margin of the game.

Just six seconds after the score, senior free safety Xavion Linsdey jumped a Harvey pass and snagged his first interception of the season, returning it to the Crusaders’ 20-yard line. A 17-yard run by Covington allowed Hood to scamper in from three yards on the next play for the Raiders’ final tally with 7:43 to go in the final quarter.

Cardinal Gibbons (2-1) wouldn’t go away without a fight, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Grazen ran in from 25 yards and Harvey connected with senior Myles Harp for a five-yard score with 53 seconds remaining in regulation.

“The (defense) adjusted to their emotions and our communication was a huge factor in that,” Till said of the defense. “The few times we had to check, we checked it right. When they were motioning into different sets, we always picked that up.”

Hood led the Raiders in the ground game for the second straight contest, collecting 74 yards on 11 attempts. Complimenting his three rushing touchdowns, Covington rushed for 64 yards, also on 11 carries.

Stroman picked up game-highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (143), for an average of 20.43 yards per catch. Jones’ six catches went for 71 yards, while Baldwin added 40 yards on four balls caught. Sophomore Kellan Hood and Martin each finished the game with three catches, combining for 50 yards.

The Raiders (4-0) will get a break as they enter their bye week. Richmond will then have two weeks to prepare for Purnell Swett High School (0-3) in its Sandhills Athletic Conference opener on Friday, Sept. 27.

Last season, the game was pushed from Week 6 to the regular-season finale thanks to Hurricane Florence. The Raiders shutout the Rams 41-0, and made it their 30th win in 32 tries against Purnell Swett. 

Richmond will look to go undefeated in SAC play for the second consecutive season and repeat as conference champions. Fans will see kickoff back at its normal 7:30 p.m. start time at Raider Stadium.

RAIDER VIDEO CHATS: To hear from Till, Covington, Lindsey and West, click each person’s name, or visit the Richmond Observer on Facebook and Twitter.

Last modified on Saturday, 14 September 2019 15:34

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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