BROOKLET — The Richmond Hill football team used a balanced air and ground attack, putting up more than 400 yards of total offense, for a 38-21 win at Southeast Bulloch Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
The Wildcats got their offense rolling early as Kasey Green connected with Sam James on an 80-yard touchdown pass on Richmond Hill’s first play from scrimmage. The point-after by Joseph Petrino gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead just 11 seconds into the game.
Wildcats Coach Matt LeZotte said he decided well ahead of the game what his team’s first play would be.
“I knew we were faster than them,” he said. “Sam is one of the best receivers in the state and we decided to let him show his thing. It was a great throw and a great catch.”
LeZotte said he wanted to call the play “while the ball was still dry,” given that the game started almost 40 minutes late due to heavy rains and lightning.
“Even with the rain, we had a nice crowd come all this way to support us,” LeZotte said of the Richmond Hill fans. “And they stuck it out waiting for the delay to end.”
The Yellowjackets did not waste much time on offense once they got the ball, scoring on a 51-yard run on their first possession to tie the game at 7-7.
Green connected with James again in the second quarter on an 18-yard pass with just under five minutes left in the first quarter, and a 33-yard field goal by Petrino with 5:34 left in the second quarter gave Richmond Hill a 17-7 lead.
Southeast Bulloch scored on a 10-yard pass with 48 seconds left in the half, cutting Richmond Hill’s lead to 17-14.
“I told the offense at the half that we weren’t going to change a thing,” LeZotte said. “We made two adjustments on defense and that was the difference.”
Southeast Bulloch would not score again, while Maurice Smith found the end zone for the Wildcats three times on runs of 8, 1 and 7 yards, including two on direct snaps.
LeZotte said he was pleased with his team’s running game.
“I thought the offensive line did the best job they’ve ever done in my time here,” he said. “They just controlled the line of scrimmage like you wouldn’t believe.”
Richmond Hill also had an apparent 46-yard touchdown run by Aaron Bedgood called back in the second quarter due to a personal foul. The Wildcats were flagged numerous times for off-sides, personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct, as was Southeast Bulloch.
“It is what it is,” LeZotte said of the penalties. “We want to play a physical brand of football and there are calls during the course of a game that can go either way. But those are controllable. Those are mistakes we can fix.”
LeZotte estimated his team lost an additional 100 yards of offense due to plays being called back on penalties.
For the game, Green was 13-for-15 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns. James had four catches for 145 yards and the two scores, while Justin Jeffery added six catches for 48 yards. Smith finished with 19 carries for 132 yards and his three touchdowns.
Nico DeCosta led the defense with 17 solo tackles and a fumble recovery, while on special teams Petrino hit his field goal and was perfect on five PATs while not allowing Southeast Bulloch to return a single kick-off.
Richmond Hill, 1-0, hosts Brantley County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.