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Wildcats smash Johnson in season opener, 58-0
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Brian Hughes puts a Johnson defender back on his heels on an 8-yard run in the first quarter. The Wildcats scored on the next play. - photo by Photo by Paul Floecker

Matt LeZotte’s first game as Richmond Hill head coach couldn’t have gone any better.

Brian Hughes threw four touchdown passes, Sam James and Aaron Bedgood each scored twice, Xavier Bryant-Long accounted for touchdowns on both sides of the ball and the defense allowed only 11 first-half yards as Richmond Hill routed Johnson 58-0 Friday at Wildcat Stadium.

“Our guys need to have a little success, and tonight we had a lot of success,” LeZotte said. “These guys don’t question what we’re trying to do anymore. This is a result of it. And we’re excited.”

Richmond Hill shut out Johnson 20-0 in last year’s opener, but was much more dominant this time. The Wildcats needed just 14 offensive snaps to score four first-quarter touchdowns en route to a 41-0 halftime lead, and the game was played with a running clock in the second half.

The RHHS defense smothered Johnson (0-2), as the Atom Smashers netted minus-14 yards in the first quarter. The Wildcats scored six touchdowns before Johnson made a first down.

“It shows that the coaching staff is doing a great job, and it’s doing a great job for our confidence,” Hughes said. “I think it gets everyone on board to really believe.”

Hughes completed 6 of 12 passes for 165 yards with no interceptions in his first start at quarterback. He also led the Wildcats with 76 rushing yards on nine carries.

Bedgood, a freshman, scored touchdowns rushing and receiving in his first high school game, and Maurice Smith added 51 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. James and Taylor Milbradt led Richmond Hill receivers with 50 yards each, all on touchdown catches, and Andre Walker had 40 yards on two receptions.

The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and scored on a five-play, 52-yard march. Hughes’s six-yard completion to Justin Jeffery on fourth-and-5 from the Johnson 47-yard line kept the drive alive.

On the next play, Hughes bought time in the pocket and heaved a pass deep downfield to James, who was wide open for a 41-yard touchdown. Joseph Petrino tacked on the first of his five extra points, and the Wildcats led 7-0 just 2:03 into the game.

“We knew we wanted to come out and score on the first possession, and that’s what we did,” Hughes said.

The defense forced a three-and-out, and Josh Washington’s 41-yard punt return put Richmond Hill in business at Johnson’s 14-yard line. On third-and-5 from the 9, the Wildcats scored on a trick play.

Hughes handed off to Bryant-Long, last season’s starting quarterback. Bryant-Long ran left, but then pulled up and threw a pass to James in the end zone.

The Wildcats again benefitted from a short field when they blocked a punt and Jeremy Word returned it to the Atom Smashers’ 13. A holding penalty backed up RHHS to a second-and-13, but Aaron Bedgood broke tackles on his way to a 16-yard touchdown run with 4:10 left in the first quarter.

Richmond Hill wasn't done in the opening period. After another Johnson three-and-out, Hughes fired a 27-yard touchdown pass to Andre Walker to make the score 27-0.

The onslaught continued in the second quarter, as Bedgood took a swing pass from Hughes and raced down the right side for a 28-yard touchdown. Smith ran for a 7-yard touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 41-0.

“I have a wonderful coaching staff, and they did a heck of a job preparing the guys,” LeZotte said. “It’s not just preparing them throughout the week – it’s preparing the on the day of the game to make sure that they’re focused. And I think you can see by the result on the scoreboard that we were focused on our effort.”

Following its dominant first half, the defense scored the Wildcats’ first points of the second half. Johnson fumbled on the third play of the third quarter, and Bryant-Long scooped up the loose ball at the Smashers’ 15-yard line and strolled into the end zone.

“He’s a phenomenal player,” LeZotte said of Bryant-Long, who played receiver, quarterback and safety in the game. “Look what he did tonight – just a total effort, offensively and defensively. He’s just one of those guys that has to be on the field.”

The Atom Smashers turned the ball over again on their next possession. Hughes capped his stellar night with a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Taylor Milbradt late in the third quarter, two plays after Markez Lightsey recovered a Johnson fumble.

Tyler Milbradt led the defense with seven tackles. Cooper Beeson had two sacks, and Matt Cone brought the game to a fitting end with an interception on the final play.

Trevor Dauphinee kicked the Wldcats’ final two extra points. Petrino closed the scoring with a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats will be home again next Friday, hosting Bradwell at 7:30 p.m. in their Region 3-AAAAA opener.

“We’ll enjoy (the win) for the night, enjoy it tomorrow, rest a little bit and then we’re back to work,” LeZotte said. “We have to leave this game behind us. It’s in the books. Have to move forward.”

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