High School Sports

Butler blitzes Richmond Senior in 2nd half, rallies to 42-41 win

Butler's Dirk Cureton (3) and the Bulldogs held off visiting Richmond Senior 42-41 in high school football Friday night. Butler, No. 2 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, improved to 3-1.
Butler's Dirk Cureton (3) and the Bulldogs held off visiting Richmond Senior 42-41 in high school football Friday night. Butler, No. 2 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, improved to 3-1. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Butler High football coach Brian Hales is clairvoyant, a point he proved at halftime of his team’s thrilling 42-41 victory Friday night over visiting Richmond Senior in a meeting of state 4A powerhouses.

Down 35-19 at the half, Hales told his team outside the locker room, “We’re going to score on our first series, then we’ll take the ball away, score again, and tie it.”

The Bulldogs, ranked second in the Observer’s Sweet 16 and sixth in the Associated Press poll, did exactly what Hales predicted. They also shut down an explosive Richmond Senior offense that had scored three touchdowns of 60 yards or more in the first half, and the Bulldogs scored the decisive touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

It was the only time they led in the game.

“Clairvoyant, huh?” Hales said with a laugh afterward. “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”

Hales said the Bulldogs’ defense made some adjustments at halftime, holding the Raiders, ranked seventh in the Associated Press poll, to a touchdown in the second half.

But the decisive play was one in which Butler had no control.

On the Raiders’ final series, with about a minute remaining, they pushed to the Butler 15 after a Bulldogs personal foul penalty. On fourth down, Richmond Senior coach Mike Castellano sent in kicker Alex Alvarado to try a winning field goal. But a fumbled snap prevented Alvarado from ever kicking the ball.

“I was saying some prayers on that kick, because he’s got a good leg,” Hales said of Alvarado.

One of the key plays in the game happened in the third quarter. After Butler drove for a touchdown and cut Richmond’s lead to 35-27, Bulldogs defensive back Damel Hickman picked off a pass from Raiders quarterback Leon Zeigler. The Bulldogs drove for the tying score two minutes later.

Quote: “We were our own worst enemy in the first half, with penalties and fumbles. We did a lot better in the second half.” – Butler High coach Brian Hales.

Records: Richmond Senior and Butler are each 3-1.

Worth mentioning: Richmond quarterback Len Zeigler threw three first-half touchdowns and completed nine pass for 186 yards. Butler held him to 40 yards passing in the second half … Butler’s T.J. Cusick returned a kickoff 87 yards for a second-quarter touchdown after Richmond had pulled to a 21-6 lead … Bulldogs quarterback Davis Cheek, who has committed to Elon, completed 22 of 26 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a two-point conversion. ... Butler’s Kusegi Cureton had nine catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns. ... Damontre Bennett led Richmond with 11 carries for 150 yards. ... Butler leads the series 5-1 over the Raiders.

What's Next: Butler visits Hough next Friday; Richmond Senior is home against Hope Mills South View. Both are nonconference games.

Richmond Senior 7; 28; 6; 0;-;41

Butler 6; 13; 16; 7;-;42

R – Jaleen Baldwin 20 pass from Leon Zeigler (Alex Alvarado kick)

B – Nijere Peoples 3 run (pass failed)

R – Dakota Wilson 60 pass from Zeigler (Alvarado kick)

R – Steven Jones 13 pass from Zeigler (Alvarado kick)

B – T.J. Cusick 87 kickoff return (kick failed)

R – Damontre Bennett 75 run (Alvarado kick)

B – Kusegi Cureton 11 pass from Davis Cheek (Ryan Schaar kick)

R – Jones 65 pass from Zeigler (Alvarado kick)

B –Dirk Cureton 4 pass from Cheek (K. Cureton pass from Cheek)

B – K. Cureton 11 pass from Cheek (Cheek run)

R – Bennett 19 run (kick blocked)

B – K. Cureton 18 pass from Cheek (Schaar kick)

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