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Raley embraces leadership role in final year with Bulldogs

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Hayden Raley

Goochland senior Hayden Raley (middle) stands with William & Mary coaches Mario Acitelli (left) and Darryl Blackstock.

The recruiting process may have been a time of extreme stress for Goochland senior Hayden Raley, but when it was all said and done with a commitment to a full scholarship offer to William & Mary, he earned the opportunity to achieve his dream of playing college football.

“Personally, I thought it was really stressful,” Raley said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. It’s always been my dream to play college football.”

Entering his senior season with the Bulldogs as a three-year starter, Raley and his fellow linemen are primed to be the strongest aspects of Goochland’s football team this year after impressing with last year’s team. With each powerful performance in the trenches, college teams quickly began taking notice, leading to multiple schools reaching out to send Raley over for a visit.

After visits to prestigious universities like Harvard, UVA, Towson, Dartmouth, Raley says the recruiting traction dried up for months until in February, when on a visit to Dartmouth, he received that fateful message from the William & Mary staff expressing their interest in him.

From there, the Tribe quickly became a school at the top of his list. With a trip to their campus in Williamsburg, Raley got to stand at midfield in Zable Stadium, talk to head coach Mike London and have serious, in-depth conversations with offensive line coach Mario Acitelli.

“He talked to me about how much they love me and how I’m a really great player and that they really wanted me,” he said of his conversations with London.

They kept communication with Raley consistently, with Raley finding that they truly cared about him as both a player and a person as well as the fit between what he wanted to do in college and how that worked with what the school had to offer. Add in the UVA connections with London and his staff, where Raley’s father is an alumn, and it felt like a clear top choice in his list of potential schools.

Once they told him that he was their top target for the tackle position in his class, they quickly approached him with a full scholarship offer. Even if it was his first offer, Raley felt like he had all he needed in order to make a decision.

“I thought to myself, there’s so many great things about living there,” he said. “So I was like, I think I’m really close to my decision. I didn’t really care if I got any other offers.”

Now locked in with the Tribe, Raley can now lock in on his senior season with the Bulldogs. This year’s team is a special one to him, and he says he’s looking forward to one last year with his fellow offensive lineman that he considers some of his best friends.

The team as a whole looks to be something special in Raley’s eyes. He’s seeing how the team has responded to the words and actions of its veteran leaders while also finding ways to bond through team dinners and those moments between the hard work found in a typical practice. Though there’s plenty of Bulldogs that’ll be seeing significant play time for the first time in their high school careers, he’s seen them put in the work necessary to succeed.

“I’ve never felt a bond that I have with my teammates,” he said. “We’re very close, and we’re all very focused at practice.”

Leading the charge one last time in the Bulldogs trenches, Raley’s ready for the challenge of leading his team through a tough field of opponents, while also preparing to soon live out his dream of seeing the field at the collegiate level.

Robby Fletcher can be reached at


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