What can Brian Hughes do for an encore?
The junior quarterback ran for five touchdowns and accounted for 330 yards of offense in Richmond Hill’s 39-14 win over Statesboro on Oct. 8 at Wildcat Stadium.
Hughes and the Wildcats will look for their first road win of the season when they travel to South Effingham on Friday for a Region 3-AAAAA game at 7:30 p.m. At 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the region, Richmond Hill has some work to do to earn a playoff spot.
South Effingham suffered its first loss of the season Friday, 34-22 at Coffee. The Mustangs (5-1, 3-1) are among four one-loss teams atop the Region 3-AAAAA standings.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” RHHS head coach Matt LeZotte said. “We’re going to show up and we’re going to fight every minute of every game. The end result will take care of itself.”
Hughes had 195 yards on 17 carries and also completed 7 of 16 passes for 135 yards against Statesboro. He ran for touchdowns of 3, 2, 1 and 5 yards before capping his big night with a 69-yard gallop to the end zone in the third quarter.
“He didn’t make a mistake and he just executed the offense,” LeZotte said. “I told him, ‘I am not going to pump the brakes with you at all. I’m going to push you to the limit, and that’s the type of results that I want from you.’”
Hughes recalled scoring five touchdowns in a game one other time, as a youngster in recreation-department football.
“It’s definitely a better experience in high school,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without the 10 other guys on the field.”
Along with Hughes’ big night, the Richmond Hill defense scored points the first two times it took the field. A pair of safeties by the defense, with Hughes’ first touchdown run in-between, staked the Wildcats to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter.
That was a big turnaround from the two previous games, when RHHS trailed in the first quarter 35-0 to Glynn Academy and 21-0 to Effingham County.
“We know that we’re not a come-from-behind team. We have to go out and score fast and first,” Hughes said. “Tonight, we came out and executed, and things went our way. We capitalized on turnovers and we made some great plays.”
The Wildcats marched down the field on their first possession, but Hughes was stopped inside Statesboro’s 1-yard line on fourth and goal. On Statesboro’s first play from scrimmage, Quinton Lavant, Ruii Hernandez and Brandon Armstrong corralled ball carrier Mahlon Williams in the end zone for a safety.
Richmond Hill drove 55 yards in seven plays following the free kick, with Maurice Smith ripping off runs of 20 and 10 yards. Hughes capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown, and Joseph Petrino added the first of his five extra points to put the Wildcats up 9-0 with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter.
On Statesboro’s third play of the game, the ball was snapped over quarterback Austin Kleinlein’s head, and he fell on it in the end zone for another safety. The Blue Devils (1-5, 1-3) regrouped to score on Tyler Gordon’s 9-yard run, closing the gap to 11-7 late in the first quarter.
But it was all Wildcats after that.
Sam James ended Statesboro’s next drive with an interception in the end zone. James also caught four passes for 73 yards on offense, including a 22-yard catch-and-run off a screen pass from Hughes to set up first and goal at the 6 on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession.
Hughes also connected with Andre Walker for 32 yards on the drive, which ended with Hughes’ 2-yard touchdown run. Petrino’s extra point extended the Wildcats’ lead to 18-7 with 59 seconds left in the first half.
“I was very proud of the guys and the execution, fundamentally, on both sides of the ball,” LeZotte said. “We blocked and tackled as well as we’ve done all season long.”
Hughes ran for three more touchdowns in the third quarter to turn the game into a rout. He bulled across the goal line from a yard out to end the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half and added a 5-yard score on the next possession.
Hughes’ saved his best highlight for last. On second-and-10 from the RHHS 31-yard line, Hughes broke free on a keeper to the left and outran the defense to the end zone to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 39-7 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
Smith finished the game with 60 yards on eight carries, and Aaron Bedgood added 32 yards on five rushes. Xavier Bryant-Long caught two passes for 30 yards.
James made six tackles to go with his interception and 73 receiving yards. Tyler Milbradt led the defense with nine tackles, including seven solos, and Kywann Green registered seven tackles.
“It’s an extremely big win,” Hughes said. “We just have to keep rolling and keep the momentum.”