By Maurice Patton
Coming off the program’s first playoff appearance and first winning season in 12 years, Nick Patterson heads into the 2020 campaign convinced he has Richland headed in the right direction.
“I think they understand better what it’s about,” the Raiders’ third-year coach said as the Aug. 20 season opener at Rogers (Ala.) approaches. “When we first got here, they were just out here; they didn’t have any purpose. They didn’t have a lot of confidence in what they were doing.
“I think (the postseason) put us over the top as far as that goes. We’ve talked a lot about upping it each year. These guys have got a lot to prove to be better than last year.”
With 13 seniors, most in key roles, the Raiders are well positioned to achieve that objective.
Leading the way offensively, though, will be a junior – quarterback Sam Edwards, who missed Richland’s playoff run following an offseason knee injury.
“He split time as a freshman,” Patterson said. “He’s the hardest worker in the weight room. He’s the first one here, the last to leave. He’s the end-all, be-all for us.”
Around Edwards, seniors Austin Seals – the Raiders’ leading rusher the last three years – and Trey Walkington will spearhead the ground game while a “plethora” of receivers will be at his disposal in the passing game. Jack Norman, Mason Lawing and Landon Griggs, all seniors, are joined in the passcatching corps by Ethan Ehrhardt, Jashon Eakins and Easton Hewitt.
Along the offensive line, seniors C.J. James and Seth Cloud will deploy at the tackles with John Hill and Jacob Rose at the guards. Sophomore Chandler Thomason returns at center after earning the starting role a year ago. Andrew McCormack, a junior, will rotate at tackle as well.
The defensive front will be anchored by senior Brandon Adams, along with McCormack and sophomore Josh Logan.
Landon Griggs and Gavin Boggs will key the unit as outside linebackers.
“They’re both seniors, they’ve both started the last three years,” Patterson said. “They’ve both been in our top five in tackles the last three years and they’re both great leaders for us. We’re looking for them to do big things for us this year.”
Jay Douthit, a junior, and sophomore Tyler Seals will form the inside linebacker tandem, with Stacey Cross and John Young rotating in as well. In the secondary, Norman and Walkington return for cornerback duties and Lawing holds down a safety spot. The other safety will be manned “by committee” with Ehrhardt, Ethan Workman and Trevor Meadows the top candidates.
Norman (punts), Adams (kickoffs) and Colton Trimble (placements) will handle the kicking duties for the Raiders.
“We understand we are a football team that can compete each week,” Patterson said.