By Maurice Patton
MT. PLEASANT – Richland took advantage of a young Mt. Pleasant squad Friday night, capitalizing on the host Tigers’ mistakes and wearing them down en route to a streak-ending 14-7 victory in the Region 5-1A opener for both teams.
The Raiders picked up their first win in the series since 1993, ending a skid of 14 straight defeats, while moving to 2-1 on the year.
“I felt like they got gassed a little,” Richland coach Nick Patterson said. “We thought that could be an issue, with them only having played one game. We thought if we could weather the early storm …
“I think we play in the toughest Class 1A region in the state, and I thought it could come down to turnovers — with their youth, maybe they’d put it on the ground.”
Mt. Pleasant (0-2, 0-1) squandered an early scoring opportunity after driving inside the Richland 10-yard line on its second offensive possession of the game. After converting a fourth-and-1, with time running out in the opening quarter, the Tigers attempted a double handoff and lost the handle. Austin Seals recovered the fumble, and while Richland did not score on the ensuing drive, it set an early tone.
“The first half, we hurt ourselves, with our inexperience,” Mt. Pleasant coach Bronson Bradley said. “We were trying to run the clock out. We were telling (junior quarterback Te’Varius Strayhorn) to run the clock, and he thought we were telling him to run the play.
“We had a chance to score and make it 7-0 early. We had opportunities galore in the first half.”
Still, the game was headed toward a scoreless deadlock at intermission until – four plays after Mt. Pleasant’s Jeffrey Williams intercepted a Sam Edwards pass deep in Tigers territory – Richland’s Jack Norman came up with a pickoff of a Strayhorn pass and returned it 28 yards to the hosts’ 16.
Two plays later, with 32.5 seconds remaining in the half, Seals took a pitch from Edwards and ran to the right side of the formation, then hit Norman on a slant in the end zone.
Richland only threw two more passes the rest of the game – one a 21-yard completion by Norman to Ethan Workman out of punt formation – as Edwards and Seals worked the read option to near perfection throughout the second half.
“I felt like we came out after halftime with a lot of energy,” said Edwards, who finished with 108 rushing yards on 24 carries and scored from a yard out with 2:46 remaining in the third period for the eventual gamewinner.
“We just came out pounding them. We worked hard all week, trying to pound it down their throat. I’m proud of all of our guys – our linemen, our skill guys. We’ve worked really hard for this moment.”
Down two scores, Mt. Pleasant answered with its best drive of the night, going 56 yards on 11 plays and cutting the deficit in half on a Strayhorn sneak with 8:22 to play. The Tigers wouldn’t touch the ball again, though, as Richland milked the clock with Edwards and Seals, gaining six first downs while going from its own 12-yard line to the hosts’ 17 before getting into victory formation to end the game.
“We had some things we held back the first two weeks, getting ready for this,” Patterson said. “We felt they’d key on Austin, that we could suck them down in and Sam would have some opportunities for some big runs.”
Seals, who entered the night averaging 144.5 yards per game, finished with 78 on 16 carries.
The Tigers totaled 161 offensive yards in the loss.
“Zavior (Davidson, five rushing yards on three carries) hurt his ankle again,” Bradley said. “Keevon Cooper stepped in and I think he grew up a lot. As the game went on, I think things slowed down for him.
“It’s tough to battle that hard and be 0-2, but I think we’re going to get a little better with every game. I think that’s where we miss the 7-on-7, the scrimmages. It’s not their fault, but they’ve got to overcome it and grow up quickly.”
Richland 14, Mt. Pleasant 7
at Mt. Pleasant Memorial Stadium
R 0 7 7 0 – 14
M 0 0 7 0 – 7
R – Jack Norman 16 pass from Austin Seals (0:32), Colton Trimble kick
R – Sam Edwards 1 run (2:46), Trimble kick
M – Te’Varius Strayhorn 1 run (8:22), Jackson Collier kick
First downs 16 10
Rushes-yards 44-194 31-126
Passing yards 48 35
Comps-Atts-Ints 5-7-1 4-7-1
Penalties-yards 3-25 4-40
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-1
Richland – Austin Seals 16-78, Sam Edwards 24-108, Ethan Ehrhardt 4-8
Mt. Pleasant – Te’Varius Strayhorn 10-31, Keevon Cooper 9-38, Ladontay Patton 6-48, Euriah Archibald 1-1, Demarkus Brown 1-11, Zavior Davidson 3-5
Richland – Sam Edwards 3-5-1, 11, Austin Seals 1-1-0, 16, Jack Norman 1-1-0, 21
Mt. Pleasant – Te’Varius Strayhorn 4-7-1, 35
Richland – Ethan Workman 1-21, Austin Seals 1-3, Jack Norman 2-23, Ethan Ehrhardt 1-1
Mt. Pleasant – Demarkus Brown 4-35