The Cape Fear Heroes came into a snowy cold Richmond Saturday night after having demolished the High Country Grizzlies in Boone, NC. 86-12 a week earlier. The feeling among the 2800 Richmond faithful who braved the weather to attend the game was that this would be a good early-season test for the home team. The Roughriders (2-0) had defeated the Grizzlies 34-19 in their season opener on the road two weeks earlier in Boone and the question coming in was whether High Country was really that bad, or if the Heroes were truly that good. The Roughriders were also playing their 3rd QB in as many games. Rakeem Cato had won the job coming out of camp, but the team decided to move on from him and try former IFL MVP Bryan Randall. After shaking off some rust in the first half, Randall began picking up OC Derek Stoudt’s offense enough to beat the Carolina Energy going away 52-38. With prior obligations making Randall unavailable for the week three match up, Richmond turned to AFL veteran Arvell Nelson to lead them. Tall and athletic, Nelson threw 131 TD passes in his two seasons with the Cleveland Gladiators while adding another 23 with his feet.
Both teams started off slow and sloppy with bad snaps and missed connections in the early going. Trying to settle the team down and get some points on the board, the Roughriders turned to reliable kicker TC Stevens to knock home a 26-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. A few minutes later, Heroes QB Ryan Bach hit #14 Dominique Bridges for the first of his three TD receptions. At the end of the first, the Riders had a 10-6 lead. Everything seemed to shift at the start of the second quarter when DE Greg Hardy returned a Ryan Bach fumble for a TD. Cape Fear struck back to narrow the gap to five points, but that was as close as they would ever get. At the 8:23 mark of the second quarter Nelson hit D’Mauri Jones for the six and a few minutes later he hit Rashaad Carter for the first of his three TD catches and the game-winning points.
In the third quarter, the Roughriders looked like a completely different team. 18 seconds in Nelson hit TE James Carter for a 30-yard TD, and the route was on.
The Heroes replaced QB Ryan Bach with #8 Daryll Clark, who found himself up against a Roughriders defense playing inspired football. By the end of the third, the Riders added 13 more points while blanking the visitors from Fayetteville. The fourth started off with Keontae Hollis sacking Clark in the end zone for the safety and three minutes later Nelson hit Rashaad Carter for the second of his three scores. Once Arvell Nelson became comfortable in Coach Stoudt’s offense the Roughriders became unstoppable on that side of the ball. On the defensive side, Coach Law A. Lewis’s squad ended up with 4 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries, a safety and a TD. The D is led by Defensive Ends Greg Hardy and Keontae Hollis and deep group of DBs who're not afraid of contact.With the win the Richmond Roughriders move out to a 3-0 record and a tie with the Atlanta Havoc for first place in the AAL.
The team will be on the road the next two weeks. First up is a rematch of the APF Championship game against the Florida Tarpons on April 14th. The Tarpons very nearly beat Richmond for the trophy and have been itching to get another crack at them. They are currently 0-1 with their defeat coming at the hands of the Havoc. Since that game, they've added arena football legendary wide receiver Joe Hills to the squad. Then on April 20th the Roughriders will be in Trenton NJ to face the 1-1 Jersey Flight.