New Richmond Senior head coach Bryan Till said the hardest part of his job, at least right now, isn’t worrying about how to turn the Raiders into the feared high school football power they once were. Instead, he said, it’s about learning names.
Till was hired in January and is the 11th head coach in school history. And Richmond’s had quite the history. Since opening in 1972, the Raiders have won seven state championships and had only one losing season – in 1973. Richmond has won at least 10 games in 29 seasons and gone undefeated four times.
With a history like that, in a small town like this, you would expect a lot of people would have a lot of Richmond green and gold in their closets. And therein lies the new coach’s issues with names.
“It’s been a great transition so far,” Till said, “and a lot of hard work by our staff and our kids. But the biggest thing is learning all these names. There are many people here who just love football. We’ve got 180 kids and 20 some coaches, and you are always seeing the same faces.”
Till knows, however, that his biggest job at Richmond isn’t putting names to faces. His biggest job is to win – big.
The Raiders were 20-7 in the past two seasons under former head coach Mike Castellano. Those teams made the second and third round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs. But Richmond hasn’t won the state championship since 2008 and Till said he knows some of his fan base are restless for the type of deep playoff runs that had at one time been a constant for the program.
“It’s a great community, top to bottom,” Till said. “Yeah, they want to win, but they also support us greatly and give us folks to help us do things. But the management of that many folks, with kids and parents, and to get communication out with what’s going on, that’s been a challenge.”
Till, 38, is starting his seventh year as a head coach. He was 8-16 in two years at Fayetteville’s Cape Fear High School and was 34-18 in four seasons at Terry Sanford High School, also in Fayetteville. Till’s final three teams at Sanford had winning records and made at least the second round of the playoffs.
At Richmond, he inherits a 9-4 team that lost in the second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs last season. That was only the fourth time in 30 years that Richmond had suffered four losses in a season.
To rebound, Till will build around a team that returns 30 lettermen but just six starters – three on offense and three on defense. But Till is confident he can guide Richmond back to its once lofty perch atop N.C. high school football.
“I’m from a one-county school in northeast Georgia,” Till said. “I knew about Richmond County football when I came to North Carolina. People talk about the negatives but there are so many positives. I’m like, ‘Man, that’s a place that’s won at football, that loves football, and kids are from the same county and grow up wanting to be involved with it. That’s what was special where I was, where high school football was an event, something important. I wanted to get back to that, to the greatness of high school football.”
So Till said he’s exactly at the place he wants to be, and will be implementing his program in the youth leagues around town. He also plans to return Raider football to what he called “a winning mindset on and off the field.
“Are we putting in the work to where we deserve to win?” Till said. “Are we doing what the game demands of us? That’s what we’ve got to ask ourselves. Our community, too. It’s got to hold these boys to a standard. High school football is based on intangibles. You may have X number of D1 athletes, like Mallard Creek or Butler, so you have to have some talent to match that, but ultimately it comes down to the desire to play. Nobody has (Division 1) players across the board except maybe Mallard Creek, typically. So it’ll come down to guys who really want to play football and can give up selfish ambitions for the team.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr