More than a game

Fan focus: Friends, fundraisers fill the evening

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com These young fans were intent on watching the game. Others were less interested in the on-field activities.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
These young fans were intent on watching the game. Others were less interested in the on-field activities.

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – Some good, some bad

ROCKINGHAM — There was a lot going more going on inside Raider Stadium Friday night as the hometown Richmond Raiders took on the Cougars from Vance High School.

It was the Raiders’ home opener after starting the season 2-0 on the road. After three quarters, the teams were tied 28-28. And yet, there were plenty of people with varying degrees of engagement, ranging from tolerating the game to barely realizing there was something happening on the field.

Members of the Raiders cross country team sold 50-50 raffle tickets as a team fundraisers. Of course, there was your standard concessions and gear sales, and plenty of socializing along the concourse between the press box and the concession stands parallel to the activity on the football field, from one end to the other.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Cheerleaders, from very young through high school, were recognized during Cheer Night at the Raiders' home opener.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Cheerleaders, from very young through high school, were recognized during Cheer Night at the Raiders’ home opener.

Leanna Graham is an eighth-grader at Rohanen Middle School. As it was Cheer Night, the squads from each of the county’s four middle schools — Rohanen, Ellerbe, Rockingham and Hamlet — as well as the Ninth Grade Academy were on hand  to be a part of the festivities. There were plenty of younger cheerleaders out as well.

Leanna, though, made the crowd move — literally. Her mother, Beth, moved up a few rows temporarily in order to get a better photo opportunity of her daughter. It’s her first year on the school’s squad, Beth Graham said of her daughter, though Leanna has cheered “for years” for the Hurricanes of the Pop Warner division for Hamlet Parks and Recreation.

“I don’t mind the game,” said Beth, a Richmond Senior High School graduate, “but I came for her.”

She wasn’t the only one who came to support a family member or friend on the sidelines as a cheerleader or who might be in the band. Bran Faw and his wife, Amy, were there to support their own cheerleader. Emily is on the squad at Rockingham Middle School, and dad — with lollipop and one iPhone safely tucked in one hand, used the other to record Emily’s performance with the rest of her squad.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com These folks were very happy the Raiders scored a touchdown.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
These folks were very happy the Raiders scored a touchdown.

Longtime reserved seat holder Tommy Deese comes to cheer on the Raiders, but these days — long after his son’s high school days ended — he looks forward to visiting with friends just as much. It’s his football family — Amy Wilson, Cathy Wilson, John Wilson and Bobby Little. Deese sits on the top row of the home side’s bleachers with a clear view of the action on both ends of the field.

They talk about how Wiley Mabe, a member of the Richmond County Board of Education and senior vice president and area supervisor for Fidelity Bank, isn’t there for tonight’s game. They laugh and scoff, wondering how the idea of preparing for a family member’s wedding the next day could possibly compare to Richmond football.

Deese, a retired North Carolina Forest Service worker, said the reserved seats — they cost extra, but teachers rotate shifts to ensure no one but the permitted individual sits in them — are “the best thing since sliced bread.” Before he retired in 2000, Deese said he struggled to leave work to make it to the game in time. Empty seats were a rarity in those days, Deese said. Sometimes there was no place for him to sit.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com This group — the local equivalent of the NFL Cleveland Browns' Dawg Pound, perhaps — were there to make lots of noise, but they might be willing to do that even without a football game.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
This group — the local equivalent of the NFL Cleveland Browns’ Dawg Pound, perhaps — were there to make lots of noise, but they might be willing to do that even without a football game.

“I like it up here,” Deese said of his bird’s-eye view.

It’s not quite the same for Deese as before. Several of his friends, including Tommy Carter, Jake Steele and Archie Mabe, have passed away. The row Deese sits on is a little quieter than before.

Though the kids look younger than ever, they still hold hands with their latest loves and walk around. Younger siblings of the middle school cheerleaders play a game of football on their own, all but obvious to the varsity contest being played only a handful of meters away.

Oh, and by the way, the Raiders won, 42-37.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The Richmond Raiders opened their 2014 home schedule with all the pomp and circumstance one could ask for before beating Vance 42-37 to improve to 3-0.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The Richmond Raiders opened their 2014 home schedule with all the pomp and circumstance one could ask for before beating Vance 42-37 to improve to 3-0.

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