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'Cats ready to finally hit the field
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Richmond Hill quarterback Xavier Bryant-Long throws the ball during a recent practice. - photo by Photo by Paul Floecker

While most Georgia high schools already have kicked off their football season, the wait is almost over for Richmond Hill.

RHHS will host Johnson in the season opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

“I think our guys are fairly tired of hitting each other and are ready to get out there on the field and compete with another team,” first-year Richmond Hill head coach Matt LeZotte said. “Our guys are hungry to see the improvements that they’ve made from the scrimmage to now, and I think we’re going to be able to do some good things.”

The Wildcats lost 55-0 at Camden County in their scrimmage on Aug. 14. Since then, the only field they’ve seen is the practice field, with back-to-back bye weeks to begin the season.

The players are tackling and blocking better with each practice, according to LeZotte. Meanwhile, the coaching staff has continued to install the Wildcats’ new offensive and defensive schemes.

“I think (in the scrimmage) they were shown fundamentally where they needed to work and give attention to, and our guys have committed to it,” LeZotte said. “We were able to implement our systems, see where we needed to focus our attention, refine our skills and then essentially have a three-week practice period.”

LeZotte has not announced a starting quarterback. Last year’s starter, senior Xavier Bryant-Long, is being pushed by junior Brian Hughes for the job.

“They’re still competing, and they both do things well,” LeZotte said. “So we’re going to gear our game plan around what they can do well, and see what we can get out of them.”

Having consecutive byes in August means the Wildcats won’t have an off week the rest of the season. Friday’s matchup with Johnson is the start of 10 games in as many weeks.

“I’m a fan of having off weeks during the season,” LeZotte said, “but it really doesn’t matter as long as you’re showing up, putting in the work and getting better each day.”

Like Richmond Hill, Johnson has a new head coach this year. The Atom Smashers are 0-1 after falling 26-6 at Toombs County last Friday in David Jackson’s debut as coach.

Johnson took a 6-0 lead with a touchdown on its first possession of the season, but was shut out the rest of the way. Toombs County rushed for 219 yards and scored on a 78-yard kickoff return.

The Atom Smashers have “some big-play potential” that Richmond Hill will need to defend against, LeZotte said.

However, his focus is far more on his own team’s preparation and execution than on the Wildcats’ opponent.

“I tell the guys all the time, I’m way less worried about any of the teams that we play on our 10-team schedule,” he said. “I’m more concerned with our guys, and if we’re doing what we need to be doing. If we do that, everything will handle itself.”

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