Richmond Hill’s second win of the season came much tougher than its first one, but head coach Matt LeZotte wasn’t worried about style points.
A week after winning their season opener by 58 points, the Wildcats struggled in the first half before rallying to beat visiting Bradwell 17-14 Friday on Brian Hughes’ 2-yard touchdown with 5:32 to play.
“I’ll take 10 of ‘em,” LeZotte said. “It does not matter.”
The Wildcats made a key defensive stop late in the first half and two more following Hughes’ second touchdown of the night to improve to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in Region 3-AAAAA. Bradwell fell to 0-3 and 0-1.
“We couldn’t have played a worse game and come out on top, so I’m proud of the guys persevering,” LeZotte said. “When it got tough, they responded. They ended up making plays when they had to at the end.”
Luther Echols’ 5-yard touchdown run gave Bradwell a 14-10 lead with 9:41 remaining in the game, but Richmond Hill answered with a 60-yard drive for what proved to be the winning touchdown. Aaron Bedgood carried three times for 25 yards to get the Wildcats to Bradwell’s 31-yard line.
The drive stalled and Hughes’ deep pass down the middle to Sam James on fourth-and-14 was broken up, but Terrius Crimiel was called for pass interference and then unsportsmanlike conduct. That gave Richmond Hill new life at the Tigers’ 11-yard line.
On third-and-1 from the 2, Hughes ran a keeper to the right and plowed into the end zone. Joseph Petrino tacked on the extra point to put the Wildcats up 17-14.
Crimiel returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to Richmond Hill’s 27, but the defense held. Quin McMassey’s pass to Duane Johnson on fourth-and-8 was broken up near the goal line by Christian Scholar.
“He made a great play on the ball,” LeZotte said of Scholar.
After a Richmond Hill punt, Bradwell got the ball back with 1:06 to play and drove from their 20-yard line to the Wildcats’ 26. The defense stiffened again, and Darian Banks missed badly on a 43-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Bradwell opened the scoring on Echols’ 9-yard touchdown run with 1:10 left in the first quarter. Richmond Hill coaches and players pleaded to the referees that Echols was stripped of the football before he crossed the goal line, but the call stood.
The Wildcats looked poised to tie the score early in the second quarter after Aaron Chick intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards to Bradwell’s 15. However, Hughes’ 3-yard touchdown run was nullified by an illegal shift penalty, and RHHS settled for Petrino’s 25-yard field goal to close the gap to 7-3.
Bradwell followed with an 18-play march that took more than eight minutes off the clock, but came away empty. The Tigers kept the drive going with three fourth-down conversions, but their fourth try fell just short as Echols was stopped inside the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal from the three.
“Our guys bend but don’t break,” LeZotte said. “They just refused to give in. We were the reason that drive continued on the way that it did. We were shooting ourselves in the foot, so (our defense) owed it to themselves to stop them.”
The Wildcats took their first lead after Cooper Beeson recovered a fumble at Bradwell’s 23-yard line on the third play of the second half. Bedgood ran for 11 yards on first down and Hughes covered the final 12 on three carries, scoring from 4 yards out with 9:49 remaining in the third quarter.
“We did a terrible job in the first half playing our brand of football,” LeZotte said. “We didn’t do a very good job in the second half, but when it mattered, we made plays.”
Bedgood led the Wildcats with 50 yards rushing on eight carries, and Hughes finished with 31 yards on 17 carries to go with his two touchdowns. Hughes completed 4 of 9 passes for 42 yards.
The Wildcats will play their first road game of the season next Friday, at Ware County at 7:30 p.m.