Note: This article was published on Richmond Confidential. There are no photos from this game, as it was my first and only sports article so far. I have included a photo to stand in as an illustration from the next Richmond Oilers game, which I went to as a photographer.
Richmond High Oiler Assistant Coach Marlyn Johnson chewed out his players in the locker room after Friday’s home game against Burton High. There were missed passes and stalled drives.
“You don’t need, you don’t deserve nail-biters like that,” said Johnson. “We went backwards against a team that we should have scored twice as many points on as last week.” And this was for a game they won, 16-6.
For a team that only won three games last season, this is a long-awaited turnaround. With last night’s victory, and a 31-0 drubbing of Thurgood Marshall High the week before, the team is undefeated.
“It’s pretty much known around here that, in the past 12 years, Richmond High is a losing team,” said Danny McLane, a cornerback and running back for the Oilers. “Hands down we’re the underdog in Richmond. We haven’t had success since ’97.”
“We had a team not practice, cancel practice, because they were playing us. After a while, you start to get tired of that.”
The coaches were tired of losing too, and imposed an intense practice schedule. The players arrive at school at 6:30 a.m. every morning studying strategy, watching game videos, and pumping iron.
Stamina is crucial for this team of 25, whose members often play multiple positions.
“This is the season of revenge for us,” said Demariye Williams, a cornerback and running back. “We are looking to turn heads this year.”
Few heads were turned in the lackluster first half, which ended tied 6-6.
Assistant Head Coach Darryl Robinson, known as Coach “D”, told the team how disappointed he was during halftime.
“This is a wake-up call, huh? I think you guys missed about three touchdowns,” he said. “You have lost a lot of opportunity. Do not let them continue to defeat you play after play.”
The Oilers defense forced a safety late in the third quarter, giving Richmond an 8-6 lead. The defensive play sent Coach Johnson into a yelling frenzy.
“You’re at home! Remember you’re at home,” he shouted from the sidelines. “Don’t let nobody beat you in your house.”
In the fourth quarter, the Oilers offense began to click. An eleven play, 69-yard drive culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Esparza to Isaiah Brown. A two-point conversion made the final score 16-6.
But after the victory, the team wasn’t excited.
“We were lagging today,” said Williams. “They weren’t supposed to score and we weren’t supposed to be held at 16. We didn’t put all our heart into it like we planned to. Expect better things from us.”
The coaches emphasized the uphill battle Richmond High has if they plan to achieve a winning season, a goal that’s eluded them for more than a decade.
“If you’re sitting here, already popping the champagne, making plans for the championship after party, think again,” said Coach Johnson. “We still got a long road ahead and it’s not going to get any easier.”
There’s no time for a party for this year’s Richmond Oilers. At the end of the meeting, the coaches reminded the team to be on the field Saturday morning for practice.
“We don’t stop, can’t stop,” Coach “D” told them. “There’s still a whole lot left to do.”
The next game will be a test for two resurgent teams. The Oilers meet the Kennedy Eagles on September 24 in Richmond at 7 p.m.