A Richmond Raiders team its head coach says is improved from last season will take on the League Champion Albany Panthers Saturday evening in Albany, Georgia. This will be the second game of 2012 for the Raiders, which beat the 2011 League runner-up Columbus Lions in a hard-fought offensive shootout 64 to 58 on Saturday at the Richmond Coliseum. It will be the season opener for the Albany Panthers.
On the one hand, the Richmond team has a number of new faces. On the other, Albany has 19 players returning from last year, including nearly the entire starting lineup on both sides of the ball. As a result, from the Richmond perspective, the Panthers are picking up where they left off. It appears Panthers starting quarterback and championship game MVP Cecil Lester will be throwing to returning wide receivers Antwone Savage, Antwon Cutts and John Harris, that running back Derrick Wimbush will return to the backfield, and that linemen Terrance Smith, Aaron Wheeler and Demetrice Jackson will be back in the lineup protecting Lester.
Even with the prospect of facing all that experience, however, Head Coach James Fuller of the Raiders said, “I believe the two teams are fairly evenly matched, although it is true the Albany players have been working together longer.”
It is also true that the Richmond players performed well in the season opener. Quarterback Antwon Young (6’4 220, Villanova), for example, picked up where he finished 2011, guiding the Raiders to a win with 16 of 28 passing for 172 yards and five touchdowns and helping to overturn a late 12-point 3rd Quarter deficit. He also demonstrated he can be a threat on his feet. Young added 52 yards rushing, including an 18-yard touchdown scamper toward the end of the game.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders in the opener, DB Maurice Thorne (5’10 180, NC Wesleyan) stood out most, notching a game-high 7.5 tackles, and Thorne and his teammates on defense prevented Columbus from scoring for almost an entire quarter between the 3rd and 4th quarters.
On special teams, Kicker T.C. Stevens (5’9 180, Hampden-Sydney) got off to a prolific start in his debut in Richmond with the opening kickoff by scoring the first of his two Uno’s for the night. The former Tiger was a perfect 8 for 8 on PAT attempts while also adding field goals of 42 and 22 yards respectively.
All in all, Richmond fans are optimistic this Saturday’s game will be another exciting and close match up that could see Richmond come out ahead if the fates cooperate. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m., and Richmond fans will be able to listen to a broadcast of the game on the Internet by following this link: