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'Cats wrap up spring with entertaining scrimmage
The Wildcat cheerleaders run onto the field as part of the festivities of the Richmond Hill High School spring-football scrimmage Friday at RHHS. - photo by Photo by Bryan Browning

Matt LeZotte’s coaching career at Richmond Hill High School is off to an entertaining start.

RHHS concluded two weeks of spring football practice with its annual Black and Gold scrimmage Friday at Wildcat Stadium, using a unique scoring system that resulted in a 72-65 final score.

Along with standard football scoring, the coaches awarded points for long-yardage plays or three consecutive first downs by the offense. The defense earned points for forcing a turnover, sacking the quarterback and stopping the offense on downs or with a punt.

“It was a way to give the defense an opportunity to score some points, and you see how even it ended up being,” LeZotte said. “I sure would like to punt a little less and score touchdowns a little bit more, but it’s good when we’re stopping (on defense).”

More important to LeZotte than the final score, though, was the progress the players made during his first spring at RHHS. He was hired as Richmond Hill’s head coach in February following stints as an assistant at Wayne County and head coach at Aquinas in Augusta.

LeZotte used the two weeks of drills to teach the basics of his offensive and defensive schemes, installing about 20 percent of the plays and formations by his estimate. He saw daily progress among the 109 players who turned out for spring football.

“We have the base layer of our wall built,” LeZotte said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. They really caught on fast. They were a big group of sponges.”

Three quarterbacks — Brian Hughes, Aaron Bedgood and Brandon Armstrong — played in the spring game. Hughes took the most snaps and rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown on six carries while completing 11 of 18 passes for a game-high 147 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Bedgood threw a touchdown pass and led all rushers with 120 yards on just eight carries, including a highlight-reel TD in the third quarter. Armstrong gained 37 yards on six attempts and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 17-yard run.

“We’re just getting them all reps and trying to see what they can do with the ball,” LeZotte said. “We’re going to determine over the summer where we’re going to be and, hopefully, have one of those guys step up. Whoever makes the most plays is going to play.”

Last season’s starting quarterback, Xavier Bryant-Long, sat out the game with an illness. He also is part of the wide-open quarterback race.

“He’s still in the mix, too,” LeZotte said. “He’ll be ready to roll, so it’s going to make it very interesting.”

After Armstrong’s touchdown, Bedgood threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Josh Washington. Hughes scored on a 4-yard keeper and tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jeffery.

Bedgood turned a potential loss of yardage into a 46-yard touchdown after a shotgun snap sailed over his head in the third quarter. He raced several yards behind the line of scrimmage to retrieve the ball, then broke tackles and raced to the end zone.

Eli Polite added 46 yards on 12 carries, and fellow running back Maurice Smith netted 39 yards on 15 rushes. Tight end Taylor Milbradt totaled 72 yards on a pair of receptions deep down the middle from Hughes.

The defense had its share of highlights as well, starting with Aaron Chick’s interception on the game’s opening drive. The Wildcats’ defense also recovered a fumble, forced nine punts and caused 13 offensive plays to lose yardage. Linebacker Tayler Milbradt led the way with 12 tackles, and Jeremy Word and Cooper Beeson each had seven.

Junior-varsity player Jamal Polite capped the scoring with a 75-yard touchdown run. The JV played the majority of the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats will participate in summer weightlifting and conditioning and attend football camps before preseason practice heats up in August. Richmond Hill opens the 2015 season Sept. 4 at home against Johnson.

“It was exciting to watch these guys grow,” LeZotte said. “We’ve come a little way in the big way that we’re going to come.”

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