The Rematch: Pinecrest vs. Richmond
The spotlight will be shining brightly on the John Williams Athletic Complex tonight when Pinecrest and Richmond Senior meet in one of the state's three games involving two ranked football teams.
The No. 22 Patriots (CarolinaPreps. com media poll) face a daunting challenge in the fourth-ranked and defending 4AA state champion Raiders. Both come in at 8-1 overall. A win would put the Patriots in a tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference at 3-1 with the Raiders and a Lumberton team that is favored to defeat Scotland County.
Topping the list of Patriot concerns is a Raider offense that has averaged 37 points per game while playing one of the toughest schedules in the state.
"They have a really good offense, but we watch a lot of film, and I think we'll be prepared," said inside linebacker Trent Fredericks, one of 33 Patriots being honored on Senior Night. "I think it's going to come down to who wants it more and who can play good assignment football.
"The way the defense has performed the last couple games, we're really excited to play what is said to be the best offense in the state."
Leading a Richmond running attack that has ground out over 300 yards per game is Labarrian Jones with 1,202 yards on 165 carries and 19 touchdowns. Quarterback Tedarrius Wiley completed 24 of 36 passes for 317 yards during last year's shocking 31-28 loss to the Patriots on Homecoming Night in Rockingham. He has thrown for 10 touchdowns this season, seven of them to wide receiver Quayshawn Dumas.
"We can't allow the big play," Pinecrest head coach Chris Metzger said. "We've got to make them drive, and our offense has to control that clock."
The graduated Josh Scales was the quarterback in last year's win over the Raiders, only the second win over Richmond in the history of the Patriot program. The first one was in 1992.
Current signal caller Ben Williams engineered the 2007 jayvee team's 17-10 victory in Rockingham. The senior has completed 67 of 128 passes for 922 yards and has thrown 10 touchdown passes this season.
He says he's impressed by the speed of the Raider defense.
"We definitely feel we can move the ball," he said. "We just have to go North and South because they're fast at all positions. We need to put up as many points as we can, just try to keep our defense rested on the sidelines as much as possible, and keep their high-powered offense off the field."
Williams has a potential difference-maker in wide receiver James Baldwin, who has 32 catches for 413 yards and five touchdowns. Running backs Damion Pride, Raphael Alston and Bret Toomer have shared the workload almost equally, each rushing for over 400 yards.
The Patriots have another weapon in place-kicker Dillon Maples, whose team-record 51-yard field goal was the difference in last Friday's 22-20 win over Purnell Swett.
"There's a lot at stake, and we know we have to go out there and get it done," Williams said.
Among the many things on the line for both teams is a conference title. The Patriots have already clinched a spot in the state playoffs for the second year in a row. Another win would cement a first-round game at home and give the team nine victories for the first time in the 40-year history of the program.
Metzger thinks that a Raider team intent on making amends for last year's loss to the Patriots is even stronger than the one that defeated Jack Britt for the 2008 state championship. Decreasing his squad's margin for error, five starters injured in a physical but, according to the coach, clean Purnell Swett game are expected to miss tonight's game.
"We just have to go out and play mistake-free football, play to our potential and compete," Metzger said. "When we got here in March of 2007, we talked about eventually having games like this. It's here, and we're going to see if we're ready for this kind of game."
Not lost in the excitement for the seniors is the fact that it's the final regular season home game for a group that helped the team go 15-6 over the last two years. A large crowd is expected. Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.pinecresthighschool.ticketleap.com. Ticket gates will open at 6 p.m. and persons with pre-purchased tickets may enter through the pass gate (baseball field entrance) with little waiting.
"Without a doubt, I think it's an opportunity for the community to show we have the best fans in the country," Metzger said. "We're going to need that 12th man."
The other two games involving top 25 teams have No. 9 R.J. Reynolds (9-0) facing No. 13 West Forsyth (9-0) and No. 11 Dudley (9-1) facing No. 12 Page (8-1).
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