With the Fighting Scots’ 21-14 fourth quarter victory over the Raiders, a new winning streak has been established in the historic Scotland/Richmond rivalry, one which began last season for the Scots en route to their first-ever 4A state championship.
And in order to establish this streak, all it took was Scotland dispelling a catchphrase that haunted the Fighting Scots for years prior to 2011.
“There’s no such thing as Raider Magic,” said Scotland linebacker Artemis Robinson after his team’s conference championship victory. “I’ve said it all season long that we are underrated and underestimated, and this is what happens when you take us for granted. All I can say is that this win is breathtaking.”
“This is a big win and I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” said Scotland coach Richard Bailey, who earned the first victory over Richmond in his coaching career Friday night. With the win, Scotland all but guarantees a number one or two seed in the 4A state playoffs which begin next week.
“This victory is a springboard that can only carry us further towards our goal of a state championship. But we have to come back to reality next week, because a win against Richmond on their field could set us up for a letdown if we’re not careful,” he said.
The strategy in the first half for the Scots appeared to be clock control and the ability to keep Richmond’s offense off the field. On the whole, the plan worked as Scotland dominated the time of possession and appeared to win the interior battle on both sides of the football.
However, the “Raider Magic” stigma that has been a staple of some of the Raiders’ biggest wins would make its presence felt just enough to keep the game a stalemate heading into halftime.
Nerves appeared to take center stage in the first quarter, as a couple of costly Raiders penalties allowed the Scots to develop an early offensive rhythm.
On Scotland’s first series, Richmond committed two separate facemask penalties that gave Scotland a 23-yard field goal opportunity. The Raiders had more than 50 yards of penalties in the first half.
The subsequent field goal would be blocked by Richmond defensive back Thomas Calhoun, but the attempted score bookended an 11-play Scotland drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock in the first quarter.
Richmond’s offense was utterly ineffective during its limited time on the field in the quarter, with a 25-yard rush by Dakwa Nichols in the waning minutes their only highlight. Shortly after that run, Raiders’ quarterback Brent Flowers would fumble on a QB keeper which was recovered on the Scots’ own 38-yard line by Robinson.
On Scotland’s second offensive series, the Scots’ rushing attack would finally break through for the first score of the game. A 27-yard rush by Scotland quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe put the Scots in Richmond territory once again in the first quarter, but this time they would hit pay dirt.
Scotland senior running back Jalen McLean, who had 67 yards on seven carries in the half, found a gaping hole in the Richmond line to demonstrate his blazing speed via a 33-yard touchdown run.
After another failed offensive series for Richmond to open the second quarter, Scotland once again found itself moving the chains on offense. But the penalty bug would bite the Scots as it did Richmond, as holding and intentional grounding flags were thrown on successive plays to halt the momentum Scotland built in the early minutes of the game.
However, Scotland kicker Ben Utter fired a punt that landed inside the Richmond five-yard line to give the Raiders a long field to jumpstart their sluggish offense.
After a couple penalties and a 12-yard pass completion put the Raiders in Scotland territory, Flowers would face a fourth-and-long situation.
Staring a scoreless second half in the face, Flowers found senior wide receiver Kole Stanley in the flats for a perfectly-placed 31-yard touchdown completion.
At the end of the first half of regulation, Scotland and Richmond were tied 7-7.
Dating back to last week, the Fighting Scots were without talented defensive back and kickoff return specialist Trejon Monley, who was suspended for a violation of school policy.
In his place has been senior Desmond McNeil, and on the biggest stage of his life, he would come up with a play against Richmond that proved pivotal once the final seconds ticked away.
After a sloppy third quarter laden with penalties and conservative play-calling, the Raiders’ woes continued when McNeil found himself in a perfect position to intercept a Flowers pass. McNeil seized the opportunity, and the Scots would regain offensive possesion at the Raiders’ 42-yard line.
On the first play following the turnover, Ratliffe scrambled for 30 yards to put the Fighting Scots in goal line territory. Ratliffe followed with a four yard run, and from there McLean collected his second rushing touchdown of the night to give his team the 14-7 lead.
Richmond’s next possession saw the Raiders continue to free fall, as a failed pitch from Flowers was once again recovered by Robinson in Richmond territory with seconds left in the third quarter.
But the Raiders weren’t finished yet, and the result was a fourth quarter that came down to the wire.
After Ratliffe was sacked by Richmond’s powerhouse defensive end Devontae Covington to start the quarter, it beget a nine play, six minute Richmond drive that culminated with a Diquon Cox two-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14.
And with the ball on his own 20-yard line and less than six minutes remaining, Ratliffe was presented the opportunity to establish an early legacy in his young career.
The sophomore QB didn’t disappoint.
“Coach has told me that I’m the leader of this team, and that it’s up to me if we win or lose games,” Ratliffe said. “I see myself as a senior in terms of how I handle myself on the field.”
After scrambling outside of the pocket on a third down to find Tra’Shawn Gregory for his only catch of the game, Ratliffe took a QB option 23 yards right up the gut and was finally brought down at Richmond’s 25-yard line.
Ratliffe’s number was called on the very next play from scrimmage and he would deliver arguably his most clutch play of the regular season. Once again tucking the ball in for another run, Ratliffe powered up the middle again for 25 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown with just under three minutes left to play.
Richmond had one final realistic opportunity to drive the field when a pass intereference penalty was called, giving the Raiders possession at Scotland’s 44-yard line.
But a few short plays later, Flowers would fumble the snap and senior Scotland defensive lineman Ed Cain was there to fall upon it.
With the win, Scotland finishes the regular season with a 9-1 record as they await their playoff destiny.