“You’ve been here before when we’ve had our backs to the wall,” Richmond Hill Coach Matt LeZotte said to a visitor strolling into Wildcats Stadium for last Friday night’s game with Colquitt County. “You haven’t seen anything like this.”
LeZotte was commenting on the challenge facing his team against the unbeaten Packers who were ranked second in the state and in the top 25 in at least a half-dozen national polls.
Max Preps thought so much of Colquitt and so little of Richmond Hill that it had the Packers favored to win by a whopping 44 points in the Region 1-7A game. When the final horn sounded the Packers (90, 4-0) had a 41-14 win against an outmanned Wildcats team that battled to the end. The Wildcats wasted no time in sending a message to the Packers that they weren’t going to roll over and play dead when they stunned Colquitt and its substantial following by taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards on six plays for a 7-0 lead.
The touchdown came when senior quarterback Ty Goldrick teamed with sophomore wide receiver Andrew Matthews for a 9-yard score with 6:45 left in the first quarter. When sophomore Blake Williams drilled the extra point one side of the stadium was loud and boisterous, the other as quiet as a mouse in church.
The Richmond Hill (3-7, 0-4) side got a little louder when Colquitt took the ensuing kickoff and drove down field only to be forced to settle for a field goal.
Unfortunately, that euphoria did not last long as the Packers scored on their next possession and went on to forge a 20-7 halftime lead.
In the second half it was an all too familiar scene as Richmond Hill could not mount any sustained drives and a defense forced to be on the field too long grudgingly gave ground. It was 41-7 when the Wildcats got their second score, this one a 40-yard catch and run from Goldrick to Matthews who had not scored in the previous nine games. The game ended with Richmond Hill on the Packers’ five-yard line.
The first half was similar to Richmond Hill’s other region games this season.
In what is regarded as the strongest region in the state from top-tobottom the Wildcats held their own for a half. They were tied with Camden County (7-7) and Valdosta (0-0) and trailed Lowndes County (7-3) at the midway point only to get outscored 83-14 in the second half.
“You take a look at the first half of those games and we should have learned to finish,” LeZotte said. “A lot of that has to do with our youth, but then we have to do a better job as coaches on getting these guys going.”
Richmond Hill had a thin senior class—15 players were recognized on Senior Night—and there were 43 sophomores on the roster.
What this meant was there was a bigger drop off than usual between the first and second
teams. “There were a lot of guys that were forced to play a little earlier than they should have,” LeZotte said. “By the end of the season they were making plays the way they would have next year.
“They would have been playing jayvee and going through the process of growth and development but they were thrown into the fire, to the wolves and they made plays on this stage,” LeZotte said. “And there’s no bigger stage in the state of Georgia than what we just played on.”
Despite the disappointment of the loss the Wildcats showed a touch of class when they stayed on the field after the game to watch the band give its post-game performance.
It was their way of saying thanks for the support they had received from their fellow students.
“Where else do you see something like that,” Athletic Director Stacy Bennett said. “That’s one of the things that makes Richmond Hill special.
We’re really proud of those guys for doing this.
It says a lot about them.”
Goldrick completed 10 of 17 passes for 158 yards and finished his career with 3,092 yards having completed 213-of-414 attempts.
Ravon Grant added to his single season receptions record as he caught six passes for 56 yards.
He had 64 catches for 704 yards on the season and finished with 121 for 1,551 yards. Zion Gillard ran for 88 yards and had 862 on 200 attempts.