Butler raced to a big first-half lead and then hung on for dear life Friday night to hold off Richmond Senior 27-21 in a meeting of 4A state powers.
The Bulldogs, No. 6 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, built a 27-7 halftime lead with a ground game that overwhelmed the No. 8-ranked Raiders. But Richmond Senior made adjustments at the half and closed the gap with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns.
Richmond Senior drove deep into Butler territory in the closing minutes. On a fourth-and-12 at the Bulldog 23 with 35 seconds remaining, the Raiders tried a halfback pass, but the pass flew about a foot over the outstretched hands of a wide-open Dante Miller.
The Bulldogs appeared to take a 30-21 lead early in the fourth quarter when Alex Harrell made a 33-yard field goal. But Richmond Senior was called for roughing the kicker, and Butler took the penalty yardage. The Bulldogs were stopped again, and Harrell was wide-left on a 32-yard attempt.
Another field goal attempt with 4:48 left was blocked by the Raiders.
The Bulldogs set the stage for their ground-oriented attack on their first series, moving 58 yards in six plays – all but one of them on the ground. Nijere Peoples ran 14 yards for a score.
After the Raiders tied the score on a short run by Dante Miller, Butler took the lead for good on a 79-yard, 15-play drive. All but one of the plays was a run, and Peoples capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring carry.
On its first series of the second quarter, Butler went back to the ground – successfully. The Bulldogs drove 63 yards in eight plays, scoring on 9-yard run by Jamal Worthy.
Butler’s final first-half scoring drive was set up on an interception by T.J. Cusick near midfield. This time, with only 1:48 left in the half, the Bulldogs went to the air. Keyon Lesane caught a 24-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left.
Of Butler’s 44 first-half offensive plays, 38 were runs.
But Richmond Senior raced back into contention in the third quarter, scoring on runs of 35 and 40 yards by Miller.
Records: Butler is 1-1; Richmond Senior is 2-2.
▪ Butler coach Brian Hales gambled on fourth-and-1 from the Bulldog 31, with the score tied 7-7 midway in the first quarter. He went for the first down, and Peoples converted on a short run … the Bulldogs had some composure problems in the first half, as they were called for eight penalties, including five personal fouls. It was more of the same in the second half, and Butler finished the game with 12 penalties for 140 yards.
▪ Richmond Senior’s Dante Miller finished with 155 yards rushing on 24 carries … the teams played a similarly close game last year, with Butler hanging on for a 42-41 victory.
What's Next: Butler is home Friday against Providence. Richmond Senior visits Purnell Swett on Sept. 22.