First Posted: 1/15/2009
FAIRMONT - When the Golden Tornadoes of Fair-mont square off against the St. Pauls Bulldogs on Friday, they may or may not be playing for a playoff berth.
The split Class 1-A/2-A Southeastern Conference will send at least two teams to the playoffs from each classification. Red Springs and West Bladen have those spots locked up in Class 2-A, so Fairmont (5-5, 1-4) will be vying for a wild-card selection.
There is a good chance Fairmont will qualify for the playoffs, especially if they pick up a sixth win, but at this point it's anybody's guess.
“I feel like, if we win, we'll have a good chance,” Fairmont coach Kim Brown said. “I feel good about that, but we still won't know until Saturday.”
The game will also hold meaning beyond the playoffs.
“For us, it's the difference between a winning season and a non-winning season,” Brown said.
Not to say that Brown is taking a win against St. Pauls (1-8, 0-5) for granted.
“They've got a busload of good athletes and good size across the line,” Brown said.
That size includes junior lineman Jarrett Leach (6-foot, 330 pounds), and sophomore linemen Gregory Locklear (5-11, 345) and Marquell Rozier (6-7, 378).
Fairmont will also have to contend with Bulldog quarterback Davishio Shaw, who is the No. 2 passer in Robeson County. He's amassed 1,051 yards thus far.
St. Pauls has gone winless since a 34-32 win over Pinecrest in the third week of the season. They have shown signs of improvement, racking up 430 yards of total offense last week against a talented West Columbus team.
n Players to watch: For Fairmont, senior Thomas Townsend is the county's leading rusher with 1,109 yards and is a warrior on defense at his linebacker spot. For St. Pauls, keep an eye on Shaw, who can also run with the ball..
Lumberton (1-9, 0-5) at E.E. Smith (6-4, 4-1)
Although both teams may be stinging from defeats last week, the tale of these two teams is vastly different.
E.E. Smith lost what turned out to be the conference championship to South View on Friday, 28-25, and the Golden Bulls aren't likely to let another conference game get away from them.
Lumberton lost to Cape Fear, 38-28, despite a second-half rally that fell short. But the loss kept the Pirates winless in its 17th straight conference game and 16th straight home game.
E.E. Smith has the Fayetteville area's No. 22 player on the Fayetteville Observer's list of Top 50 players in defensive back Devin Radford. The 5-foot, 8-inch, 174-pound senior has committed to Virginia Tech and was recruited by North Carolina, N.C. State and East Carolina.
The Pirates, who broke a 23-game losing streak with a season-opening win at St. Pauls, will be expected to continue using its run-based offense led by Bobby Moore and Adrian Powell.
n Players to watch: It'll be the seniors' last game, so watch lineman Hutch Eckerson and quarterback Junior Smith.
Purnell Swett (4-6, 2-3) at Cape Fear (2-7, 2-3)
Purnell Swett is already playoff eligible, having won its fourth game of the season last week with a come-from-behind 20-17 win over Pine Forest.
But the Rams would like to finish 3-3 in the conference and put its fifth win of the year in its pocket. To do that, they'll have to beat a Cape Fear team that is also looking to go 3-3 in the conference, though making the playoffs isn't possible for the Colts.
Cape Fear boasts one of the area's top players in offensive lineman Travis Melton. The 6-6, 250-pound senior is No. 40 on the Fayetteville Observer's list of Top 50 players and is being recruited by North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Virginia and East Carolina.
But Purnell Swett may have too much for the Colts, with quarterback Jeremy Sessoms, receiver/defensive back Marquel Pittman and running backs Marquis Graham and Tommie Locklear.
n Players to watch: Sessoms through the air, Locklear on the ground and Pittman on defense.
South Rob (1-8, 1-4) at Red Springs (7-3, 3-2)
Red Springs will certainly try to run the football Friday night when they take on the South Robeson Mustangs. What strategy South Robeson will use is still unknown.
“Against Fairmont, they looked a lot different on offense,” Red Springs coach David Lovette said. “They went to a spread look, something they hadn't shown hardly at all this year.”
Lovette said the shift forced his time to work overtime to be ready for a traditional wing-T offense and the new spread look.
“Shame on (Mustangs coach and Lovette's friend) Barry Leonard for doing that to us,” Lovette joked.
The Red Devils' multi-faceted ground game features four running backs who've each run for over 700 yards.
Neil Smith leads the team with 1,072 yards on the ground despite missing a game due to injury.
Chris Isaac is next with 929, followed by freshman Phillip Campbell with 866. The way Red Springs has been running the ball, either or both of these two could eclipse the 1,000-yard mark on Friday.
The Red Devils have secured a playoff spot, but are not looking past South Robeson.
“We definitely want to go into the playoffs on a positive note,” Lovette said. “South Rob has a lot of athletes and are a very dangerous team.”
n Players to watch: For Red Springs, Smith has been bothered by nagging injuries, so Isaac, Campbell and Rasheen McEachern may be asked to carry more of the load on offense. For South Robeson, quarterback Charles Anderson could put up big passing numbers if the Mustangs stick with the spread offense.