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Hokies Football Preview: Despite year one success, Fuente faces new challenges in year two

The mood in Blacksburg is significantly more optimistic than it was at this time one year ago as Justin Fuente begins his second season with the Virginia Tech Hokies.

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The mood in Blacksburg is significantly more optimistic than it was at this time one year ago. In case you don’t remember, Virginia Tech’s legendary head coach Frank Beamer retired after 29 seasons, and the Hokies lured Justin Fuente, with only 4 years of head coaching experience, away from Memphis. To add to the uncertainty, Fuente brought in a junior college transfer, Jerod Evans, to play quarterback instead of selecting from the slew of QBs already in house.

However, after a double digit win season for the first time since 2011, an appearance in the ACC Championship Game and finishing ranked in the final AP Poll (#16), it appears the Hokies have found themselves a head football coach for the foreseeable future. However, with new seasons come new challenges, and the 2017 season will provide a few significant ones for the Hokies.

The most pressing issue for Fuente and his staff will be replacing QB Jerod Evans who departed for the NFL Draft (went undrafted) despite having one more year of eligibility left. With Evans gone the Hokies lose both their top passer (3546 yards, 29 TDs) and top rusher (846 yards, 12 TDs). When practice began earlier this month it appeared to be a three man race between junior college transfer AJ Bush, redshirt freshman Joshua Jackson and true freshman Hendon Hooker.

While none of the three have ever taken a snap in an FBS game, Bush brings the most experience at the college level having spent two years at Nebraska before transferring to Iowa Western Community College for one year. Jackson, however, has the most experience in Fuente’s system, already having been in Blacksburg and in the program for a full year. Hooker arrived early and enrolled in classes at Tech in the spring, so he isn’t exactly playing catch up the way most true freshmen would be. Ultimately Jackson proved to be the most consistent and as a result won the job by the second week of practice, earning him the opportunity to start in the opener September 3rd.

Speaking of September 3rd, Virginia Tech will continue its trend of playing a ranked power 5 foe in the non-conference portion of their schedule when they open against West Virginia at FedEx Field. One of the biggest knocks against Frank Beamer from national pundits was his inability to win major early season games against ranked foes. Close losses to Alabama and Boise State in 2009 and 2010 were followed up with mostly non-competitive showings against Alabama and Ohio State in 2013 and 2015. Yes, there was that 2014 shocker in Columbus against Ohio State but that was the exception, not the rule.

Last year Fuente had his first crack at a big early season non-conference opponent when the Hokies met Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway (largest college football crowd ever 156,000+). Despite having the edge in first downs (21-16) and total yards (400-330) Tech was -4 in turnover margin and lost by 21 points. While the season opener isn’t an actual “must win”, it sure feels like Fuente needs to win this one to establish credibility in big game scenarios.

Fuente has proven himself to be a QB whisperer given his success with Andy Dalton, Paxton Lynch and Jerod Evans so Hokie fans shouldn’t worry about not having a starter named at this point. Whoever they decide to plug in should give Tech enough of an offensive spark. The bigger issue will be how they handle primetime in week one. An early quality win would provide momentum going into a tougher than normal ACC slate while a loss could begin to raise questions about Fuente’s big game ability. September 3rd can’t get here soon enough.

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Kickers

Preview: Kickers Face FC Tucson at the Season Midpoint

July wasn’t good to the Kickers with only one win out of four games. They’ve got a chance to double their July winning total at the wire.

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Opponent: FC Tuscon  (5-7-2)
Date/Time: Saturday, July 31st, 6:30 PM
Last Result: Kickers 2 – Tormenta 2

Weather Forecast From WeatherBug.com

Three Things to Kick About

  1. 90 Minutes – The Kickers on Saturday pulled together a great 2nd half coming back from 2 down. The first 60 minutes or so of the gamer weren’t great. The team really needs to put together a full 90 minute performance to show they belong in the playoffs.
  2. Halfway – USL1 is officially at the halfway point of the season. The Kickers sit in 9th out of 12 teams. The good news is that they are only 3 points away from 3rd. The league is incredibly close. The points given up to the league’s worst NCFC are stuck in my throat like an old chicken bone. Just one of those game being a win and we would be in the top 3, had we won all three the team would be tied for first. This just goes to show you can’t take things for granted and every game matters.
  3. Tired – This will be the third game in ten days. This combined with a shallow bench (not a Kickers issue more of a USL1 issue) and our lovely swamp-ass filled weather could cause problems.

Prediction

I just don’t know anymore. I thought we would win down in North Carolina. I thought we were going to lose when down by 2 against Tormenta. I fear that the schedule has done us no favors. Hoping for a win, expecting a loss.

Kickers 0 – FC Tuscon 2

Official Kickers Preview

The Richmond Kickers (4-5-5) return to City Stadium after completing a three matches in seven days gauntlet last week to host FC Tucson (4-5-4) for their first matchup this season. The kickoff for the match is set for 6:30 p.m.

Richmond’s previous match was the conclusion of their three matches in a week when they came from behind to earn a hard-fought point at Statesboro, Ga. against South Georgia Tormenta FC. The hosts opened up the scoring early with a penalty converted by Marco Micaletto. Richmond would proceed to turn on the burners for the rest of the first half.

Roughly 20 minutes after walking back out of the tunnel for the second half, Tormenta squeezed in another goal, but, before they had time to settle down, Richmond bounced back as Matt Bolduc pushed up the right wing and sent in a perfect cross that was met with another fantastic first-touch flick into the goal by Emiliano Terzaghi. With the scoreline 2-1, Richmond smelled blood and continued firing on all cylinders. Eventually, their resilience and relentless attacking helped Oalex Anderson find another goal off the bench, leveling the scoreline and finishing their road trip with an important point.

The last time Richmond faced FC Tucson was in the 2020 season at Tucson when the match concluded in a 2-2 draw with Victor Falck and Terzaghi putting their names on the scoresheet after a 0-2 comeback. Terzaghi converted a penalty to halve the scoreline before Falck converted on a set piece in the 93rd minute to level the scoreline.

The first time the two sides played in 2020 was at City Stadium in August when the Kickers earned a 2-1 victory in only its second match at home following USL League One’s return to play earlier in July. Ivan Magalhães opened the scoring with a header off a free kick. Terzaghi doubled the lead after Tucson failed to clear the ball and Richmond recycled play back to the eventual MVP who received the pass with his back to goal before quickly turning on it and beating the keeper. Shak Adams would score a consolation goal in the waning minutes of the match.

In the first half of the 2021 season, FC Tucson’s current form is similar to Richmond’s with both sides right in the mix of a crowded midfield in the USL League One table. Both teams will look for this game to propel themselves into a better position in the table with a win potentially raising either team up two or three spots.

Tucson’s last matchup was against Union Omaha and saw Omaha finish the match 2-1 with a win at home. Tucson managed to retain more possession with 54.3% but only scraped five shots throughout the match. Half of Tucson’s team had a passing accuracy of 80% or higher and may look to retain possession against the Kickers this weekend.

Richmond’s next match will be back on the road for its first international affair since 2019, after a short-lived return to City Stadium, to line up against Toronto FC II. Nearly two years later, the sides will line up across one another once again for the first time during the 2021 season. Kickoff for the match is set for 4 p.m. on Friday, August 6.

Don’t miss a moment of the 2021 season at City Stadium with your Kickers+ subscription. Kickers+ is a brand new subscription service for the 2021 season that provides fans tons of value, flexibility, and sweet perks! Sign up today for only $59.99 – Kickers+ benefits include 50% off tickets to any regular-season home match, 15% off merchandise at shop.richmondkickers.com, exclusive digital content, member events, and more! Click here for more info and to join today!

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Sports

Washington Football Team Training Camp Starts Today

Are you ready for some football? Well, football practice anyway.

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The Washington Football Team is in town and getting ready for a new season. Last year’s training camp was canceled for the obvious reason, Covid-19.

Training kicks off today with a closed-door session and fans will be allowed to watch starting on Wednesday.

Per NFL COVID-19 policies, all Fans must maintain a social distance of at least 20 feet from players. Direct player autographs will not be permitted at Camp and Fans cannot gather near or visit the Player entrance or parking area. There will be pre-signed items available for sale.

There are seven free practice sessions open to the public from July 28-July 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fan Appreciation Day is Saturday, July 31. Fans who wish to attend Training Camp can register for Free Fan Passes at: WashingtonFootball.com/TrainingCamp you’ll need to have the Washington Football Team app on your mobile device.

The Virginia Department of Health and Richmond and Henrico County Health Districts are partnering with Test Here to offer Fans free, walk-up Covid-19 vaccinations and education at Training Camp. Receive your Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson&Johnson vaccine with no appointment needed. Vaccinations are available daily, from Wednesday through Saturday from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The Richmond City Health District Outreach Team will also be on-site each day to offer education and information about the vaccine.

Learn more at the official Training Camp page.

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Kickers

Photos and Game Summary: Kickers Travelled to NC on Wednesday and Got Thumped

The Kickers fell short in both offense and defense and ended up losing 4-0 against North Carolina FC

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Official Kickers Summary

The Richmond Kickers (4-5-4) fell on the road to regional rival North Carolina FC (2-7-3) after a quick turnaround for the midweek match — their second match in a three matches in seven-day span. Richmond United academy product Damian Gallegos made his professional debut for the Reds when he came on for Emiliano Terzaghi in the 85th minute.

The match started off with kinetic back-and-forth energy. At the four-minute-mark, North Carolina’s Jay Tee Kamara sprinted down the wing at Richmond’s goal and made an incisive through-pass to Robert Kristo who struck a shot at goal, but Akira Fitzgerald was calm and collected the shot with ease.

At 13 minutes, Matt Bolduc sprinted towards the corner with the ball at his feet and curled a ball into the North Carolina box. Oalex Anderson soared in the air to meet the cross and rattled off a powerful header at the far post but it was wide of the goal.

Shortly after, North Carolina recovered a Richmond-headed clearance and recycled the ball out wide to Nelson Flores who curled the ball into Kristo who aimed a lofty header towards the far post and just over the Richmond defense to make the scoreline to 1-0. Just before the first half would come to a close, Kristo received a long ball at the center of the field and cranked out a half volley shot that unluckily found the back of the net to bring the scoreline to 2-0 in North Carolina’s favor.

Richmond came out of the dressing room pressing for a goal to halve the NCFC lead. However, NCFC found room to initiate a counterattack in the 48th minute. Josh Coan received the ball wide in the Richmond box and fired a shot towards the far post that would make the scoreline 3-0.

With the addition of some fresh legs from the Richmond bench in the 64th minute, the Reds looked to close the gap adding Luke Pavone, Stanley Alves, and Jonathan Bolanos into the mix. Stanley Alves received a long ball outside of the box, controlled it with a superb first touch, and fired off a rocket of a shot at the North Carolina goal but unfortunately, the attempt would hit the woodwork and bounce out of play — a theme for the night as the Kickers were unlucky and saw several shots either hit the post or just miss it.

In the 85th minute, NCFC would find space on the counter as Kristos was trailed by two Kickers defenders. Ivan Magalhães made a last-ditch attempt to stop the attack but brought down Kristos in the process and the defender received a red card for the last-man tackle. After six minutes of extra time was added to the clock, Coan made an incisive run at the Richmond goal and was able to find the back of the net for the final tally of the night.

Richmond caps off its busy week of three matches at South Georgia Tormenta FC on Saturday night. The last time the Kickers faced Tormenta was at City Stadium when the Reds earned a 2-0 result thanks to a brace from Emiliano Terzaghi in the final 10 minutes. Kickoff for the match in Statesboro, Ga. is set for 8:00 p.m.

Stay up to date with the latest news from the Kickers at RichmondKickers.com and on the official team app.

BOX SCORE

First Half Second Half Final
Richmond 0 0 0
North Carolina 2 2 4

LINEUPS

Richmond: Akira Fitzgerald, Chris Cole, Ivan Magalhães, Jalen Crisler(77‘ – Mumbi Kwesele, Esteban Calvo(64‘ – Luke Pavone), Zaca Moran, Victor Falck(64’ – Stanley Alves), Matt Bolduc, Nil Vinyals(65’ – Jonathan Bolanos), Emiliano Terzaghi(79’ – Daman Gallegos), Oalex Anderson

Unused Substitutes: Austin Causey, Hernan Gonzalez

North Carolina: Jake McGuire, Shermaine Martina(84’ – Malick Mbaye), Nelson Blanco Flores, Nelson Martinez, Max Flick, Nazmi Albadawi, Joshua Coan(90’+3 – Marvin Mariche), Selmir Miscic(76’ – Robert Frame), Peter Pearson, Jay Tee Kamara(76’ –  Luis Arriaga, Robert Kristo

Unused Substitutes: Nicholas Holliday, Britton Fischer, Malyk Hamilton

STATISTICS

Shots Saves Fouls Corners
Richmond 19 4 12 6
North Carolina 16 3 10 4

SCORING SUMMARY

19’

41’

48’

90’+2

NCFC

NCFC

NCFC

NCFC

Kristo (Flores)

Kristo (Miscic)

Coan (Kamara)

Coan

CAUTIONS SUMMARY

70’ RIC Moran

EJECTIONS SUMMARY

85’    RIC    Magalhães

MATCH INFORMATION

Referee: Emma Richards
Asst. Referee: Justin Howard, Dallas Rosier
4th Official: John Matto
Attendance: 2,118
Weather: Sunny, 84 ºF

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