The Richmond Hill High School football team will face a tough test in its tune-up for the regular season.
The Wildcats will travel to Kingsland to play three-time state champion Camden County in their preseason scrimmage at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
First-year RHHS head coach Matt LeZotte will get his first look at his team in game conditions. A hundred players have been participating in preseason practice at Richmond Hill.
“We are extremely excited to finally get on the field against an opponent other than ourselves,” LeZotte said.
The Wildcats finished 2-8 last year in current Bryan County High assistant Josh Eads’ only season as head coach. RHHS followed two season-opening wins with eight straight losses to miss the playoffs after consecutive postseason appearances in 2012 and 2013 under Lyman Guy.
Camden County also ended the 2014 season on a losing streak. After averaging nearly 12 wins a season with three state titles in Jeff Herron’s 13 years as head coach, Camden uncharacteristically finished 5-5 and stayed home from the playoffs in Welton Coffey’s second year.
CCHS started 5-0 last season — including routs of Tallahassee, Florida, powerhouse Lincoln and eventual Class AAAAA quarterfinalist Glynn Academy — but then lost all five of its games in rugged Region 1-AAAAAA. Camden lost by three points to both Valdosta and Tift County and by four points to eventual state champion Colquitt County.
“It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our talents and abilities against a perennial powerhouse such as Camden County,” LeZotte said. “Playing a team like Camden County, you cannot make mistakes, and our guys need to see the importance of doing the small things correctly.”
Following the scrimmage, Richmond Hill will have three weeks to make adjustments and correct mistakes to prepare for their season opener at home against Johnson on Sept. 4.
The Bryan County Redskins, meanwhile, will have a much-quicker turnaround.
BCHS will host Savannah Country Day in its preseason scrimmage at 7 tonight. The Redskins will kick off the season the following week on Aug. 21 at home against Metter.
Head coach Allen Cartwright has been leading about 50 players through his first preseason drills at Bryan County. Cartwright is no stranger to the area, having coached at Claxton and Metter prior to coming to BCHS this year.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how these kids respond to competition,” he said. “We’ve seen them in practice, but team competition is a whole different ball of wax. So it’ll be nice to see how they perform under the lights.”
The Redskins will look to build on their consecutive state-playoff appearances in Mark Wilson’s final two seasons as coach. BCHS finished 5-6 last season following an 8-3 campaign in 2013.
Savannah Country Day is looking to rebound from its second 3-7 record in the last three seasons. The Hornets’ last winning record was a
6-4 mark in 2010, and their most recent playoff appearance was in 2009, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
Nonetheless, Cartwright expects Country Day to provide a good gauge for where the Redskins are heading into the season.
“They’ll be well-coached, fundamentally sound, so we know that,” he said. “It’ll be a good test for us. We’ll learn a lot about ourselves.”
Following Monday’s practice, Cartwright dropped by the Pembroke City Council meeting to show his support for this Saturday’s “bucket brigade” fundraiser for the BCHS football program. The money raised will go toward the team’s pregame meals during the season.
Mayor Mary Warnell welcomed Cartwright and referenced his prior stints in Metter and Claxton.
“Then you know the neighbors and you know the competition, don’t you?” Warnell said, bringing laughter from those in attendance. “We’re glad to have you. We look forward to a good year.”