Read The Sports Blog's take on the game here: http://beta.bryancountynews.net/section/107/article/15111/
In years past, Johnson High School had Richmond Hill High School's number on the football field.
That changed Thursday night, when the Wildcats (1-0) overcame a sluggish first half in front of a home crowd to win 27-0 in the season opener for both teams.
"I'm happy to see things are starting to fall into place," Richmond Hill coach Lyman Guy said. "We're far from perfect and we've got a ways to go, but I'm really pleased with the effort of the kids."
The win was Richmond Hill's first in four tries against Johnson. The game was moved up a day because of worries over Hurricane Irene and both teams had issues early.
Johnson nearly gave the ball back to Richmond Hill on the first play of the game, but the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs inside the Johnson 10 on their first possession of the game.
And though Richmond Hill would finish with 315 yards of rushing and only punted once the entire game, the Wildcats fumbled three times in the first two quarters, losing one.
That comes with the territory in the option offense, Guy said.
"There's an old saying that if you want to get an option team you need to play them early because they have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot, and that's what we were doing," he said.
Fortunately for Richmond Hill, the Wildcats defense - led by inside linebackers Connor Beeson and Trevor Thomas -- kept the Atomsmashers from mounting much of anything in the way of an offense. Johnson finished with a mere 89 total yards and five first downs.
"I thought Johnson played a good game ... but our defense played very well," Guy said. "We've got a tremendous coaching staff on that side of the ball and our kids spent a lot of time during the offseason preparing"
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard with less than a minute to go in the first half on a 2-yard run from quarterback Dominique Allen, capping a drive that started near midfield. Richmond Hill added a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the second half, when senior defensive back Kennard Sutton gathered in the ball around the Wildcats' 40-yard line and raced down the left sideline 60 yards for the score.
That play probably took the wind out of Johnson's sails, Guy said.
"That comes from kids knowing what to do when a situation comes their way," he said. "It's a testimony to (special teams coach Rob Flanders). He's got his kids coached up."
After Seth Vernau's second extra point of the night extended the Wildcats' lead to 14-0, senior running back T.J. Franklin extended it even more on a 49-yard touchdown run with 9:34 left in the third period.
The Wildcats final touchdown came with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter on a 2-yard run from running back David Katzman.
Katzman's score capped a two-play drive set up by an 83-yard run by senior slotback Alex Cruz.
Cruz finished with a game-high 97-yards on six carries while Franklin had 77 yards on four rushes and Allen, who completed 1 of 3 passes for 41 yards, ran 14 times for 55 yards. Franklin also caught one pass for 41 yards.
Guy said the win over a team that the Wildcats never managed to knock off is "a big psychological step in building a winning program," he said, adding a caveat.
"I thought Johnson played a good game, but when we're playing the caliber of teams we'll see down the road, we can't afford to make the kind of mistakes we made tonight and expect to win," he said. "We'll need to make a perfect drive, turn it into two perfect drives and then a perfect half and build on that," he said. "Hopefully, Lord willing, we'll continue moving in the right direction."
Note: Richmond Hill's 356 yards of total offense came behind a line that is starting to come together with the help of newcomers, Guy said, noting transfers Jordan Grover, Kendall Robinson and Jacob Skarhaus are going to help Richmond Hill improve. All three moved here due to the military and are "complementing the rest of the line real well," Guy said.