It was – pun intended – a Blissful evening for the Richmond Hill football team as it opened its season with a 34-7 win over Effingham County on Friday night.
Nick Bliss, referred to by many as Tommy Bliss’ younger brother, showed he’s his own man as he scored three touchdowns and accounted for 245 all-purpose yards to lead the Wildcats to their fifth straight win over the Rebels.
Tommy Bliss is currently a sophomore defensive back at Mercer and excelled for the Wildcats on defense and as a wide receiver.
The senior jack-of-all-trades wasted no time in putting his talents on display as he returned the game’s opening kickoff 86 yards untouched to give Richmond Hill a quick 7-0 lead.
After the Rebels answered by going 80 yards—55 coming on a pass play against busted coverage—to tie it up Bliss put the Wildcats in front to stay when he picked a blocked punt out of the air and ran 55 yards to score.
The Wildcats made it a productive first quarter when junior quarterback Kirk Scott, making his first ever start, hit a wide-open Andrew Matthews for a 20-7 lead against the stunned Rebels. Matthews caught the ball at the 15 and strolled home with 31 seconds left in the quarter.
Bliss made it 27-7 with 3:10 left in the first half when he bulled his way in from the 4-yard line giving him touchdowns three different ways.
That touchdown was set up when Brian Ruland sacked Effingham quarterback Nate Hayes and Tad Christman covered the ball at the Rebel 40. It took two plays to score as Scott hit the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Bliss for a 36-yard gain and Bliss then followed his offensive line into the end zone.
“He’s been playing for us a long time,” Coach Matt LeZotte said. “He’s a fantastic kid.
“He shows up every day,” said LeZotte who is now 8-1 in openers at Richmond Hill. “He’s the quintessential kid that every coach wants on his team.
“I don’t know why more colleges aren’t recruiting him. He can fly—he runs 21-22 miles per hour—and he’s strong.”
While Bliss wound up with 58 yards rushing on 10 carries and caught three passes for 42-yards he was far from the entire show for the Wildcats who are looking to make amends for a 3-7 season that saw them miss the state playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Scott, who completed one of four passes last year, hit five of eight attempts for 74 yards and added 36 yards rushing. Joshua Troupe led the Wildcats with 76 yards rushing including a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Defensively the Wildcats forced three turnovers with junior linebacker Gabe Bauman coming up with an interception to go with seven tackles, one for a loss. In addition to his fumble recovery Christman had eight tackles, three for a loss. Lee Johnson also had a fumble recovery.
If there was a downside to the win it was the number of penalties as Richmond Hill was called for 13 and Effingham six.
:They killed us,” LeZotte said of the flags. “When we didn’t have them, we played good ball. The penalties either put us behind the sticks or extended drives. It was not a bad start. I feel a lot better now.
“This was really our first game (the Wildcats had a pre-season game with Glynn Academy cancelled after one quarter due to weather).”
Richmond Hill will play its home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday against defending Class 5A state champion Ware County. The Gators opened with a 20-17 win over Appling County and have now won 15 straight games. Richmond Hill is 0-8 all-time against Ware.