High School Football

One of Midlands’ newest football coaches is going extra mile, literally, for new team

Will Richardson is beginning his transition back to the Midlands as the new head football coach at Richland Northeast High School. He’s burning up the interstate in the process.

The Cavaliers have been holding their spring practices on weekends, when Richardson can commute to Columbia. He has to finish his teaching contract at Westlake High School west of Atlanta and plans to move to the Midlands full-time in mid-June.

Although he chooses to travel over three hours back and forth to Columbia for spring practices, Richardson says it’s worth it.

“I want to be the best at everything, so I want to do the required work,” Richardson said. “I know that it’s important for the kids to see me there, considering they’ve been through coaching transitions since November. I wanted to establish some consistency for those kids and felt the trips are necessary for them to see my face at practice.”

RNE wraps up spring practices this weekend. While Richardson is in Georgia during the week, the assistant coaches operate team workouts in the weight room and go over new team strategies.

Richardson praised his players and staff for this smooth start to spring football.

“It’s sped up our learning curve,” Richardson said. “The kids listen well and seem excited about the changes that myself and the staff have implemented. Everything has been installed, and now it’s just about getting them to get after it on a daily basis. It’s all a process, and the kids are embracing it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my coaching staff. Those guys came in and hit the ground running. They’ve been working hard for me.”

Richardson’s 10-year coaching career includes eight years as an offensive coordinator. He was recently a part of three consecutive region titles at Westlake as associate head coach, helping lead them to their deepest playoff run in school history in 2016.

This is the first head coaching job for the Sumter native, who was a member of the 2003 Sumter High School state runner-up team as a Shrine Bowl quarterback.

“I’ve had a lot of good, old friends in the coaching game who have wanted me to come back here for a while,” Richardson said. “The timing was right, and it just seemed like an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Richardson also played at Coastal Carolina with current Ridge View head coach Perry Parks. Together, they were part of three straight Big South Conference Championship teams from 2004-2006.

Now the two friends and former teammates are head coaches in the same region 3-4A, which includes South Pointe, York, Westwood and Lancaster.

“Bragging rights will be for a year at a time,” Richardson said. “It is very special. Everybody doesn’t get the opportunity to compete against their friends. For this to be an annual thing, it brings some excitement with it.”

Richardson was hired in April, replacing Bennett Weigle, who went 4-16 in two seasons with the Cavaliers. Current River Bluff offensive line coach Justin Crocker was hired to coach Richland Northeast in February but stepped down less than a month later to remain at River Bluff.

Anthony Cleckley, a rising senior defensive end for the Cavaliers, shared his thoughts on the coaching transitions he has experienced.

“It’s been good to experience different coaching techniques,” Cleckley said. “The coaches had different intensities, so you just have to meet their expectations. Coach [Richardson] comes from a winning program, so he can transfer that over to us and make us better as a team, program and individual men. He’s dedicated to try and make us a winning program and put us back on the map.”

Richland Northeast has not seen a winning season since 2011 when they went 9-3, but the school has hope that Richardson will make them relevant again.

“We are working towards becoming a closer-knit family with the players, parents and coaches,” Richardson said. “The reward is always greater than the sacrifice, so it’s all about pursuing the process. In addition to being good football players, we are trying to mold young men. I want to make sure we are doing it the right way.”