Friday’s Forecast: It’s Validation Week for Fairmont, South Robeson

By Brad Crawford

September 25, 2013

South Robeson coach Stephen Roberson prefers keeping things low key in Rowland, stepping away from the spotlight this summer when asked if the Mustangs would be a force in the Three Rivers Conference on the heels of the program’s most wins — 3 — since 2009.

“We’re getting there and our guys are excited,” he said. “But we’re still the team everybody thinks they can beat. We’ll have to change that ourselves and it’s up to these players.”

The addition of Purnell Swett transfers Andrew Hill and Juan Ellerbe instantly delivered a backfield boost South Robeson needed on offense and the defense welcomed back the majority of its starters from a unit that kept the Mustangs in games last season.

South Robeson’s gotten past an early hiccup to win its last three contests with Friday’s game against Red Springs being the possible program-changer.

It’s also Validation Week in Fairmont as Randy Ragland’s Golden Tornadoes entertain local rival St. Pauls. Fairmont had already tanked by last season’s lopsided loss to the Bulldogs and gets its shot at redemption carrying an unblemished 4-0 record.

Holding the top spot for the last month in the county’s power rankings, Fairmont’s had extended time to think about its conference opener.

“We told our kids not to let the bye week beat them,” Ragland said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll be ready to play, but we know St. Pauls is coming in as the best team we’ve faced through the first five games.”

Week 5 Record: 2-1; Overall 18-7

A late stop could’ve been the difference for Purnell Swett during the Rams’ 10-point loss to Anson, but Allen Campbell’s 35-yard touchdown run on a broken play in the fourth quarter sealed the home team’s third straight loss.

St. Pauls (3-1) at Fairmont (4-0)

Unless St. Pauls can frustrate Fairmont quarterback Jarrod Neal from the pocket and win the time of possession battle in a landslide, I wouldn’t expect the Golden Tornadoes to fall at home in their biggest game of the season up to this point. The Bulldogs will make plays, but not enough to offset Neal’s fifth consecutive big outing through the air. Keep an eye on turnovers, too. At times, Fairmont’s had problems holding on to the football.

Fairmont 34, St. Pauls 20

Red Springs (0-4) at South Robeson (3-1)

Is Red Springs as bad as its record indicates? Are the Mustangs a realistic contender in the Three Rivers Conference this season? Both of those questions will be answered when this one’s over, a cross-county rivalry game pitting two programs with polar opposite offensive philosophies. The Red Devils throw it often while South Robeson’s bread is buttered between the tackles. The better-prepared team defensively wins this one and in Red Springs’ case, the program also eyeing another league championship.

Red Springs 28, South Robeson 26

Swett (1-4) at North Brunswick (5-0)

No one expected North Brunswick to be unbeaten at this point which marks another challenging non-conference game for Purnell Swett prior to the treacherous league slate. The Scorpions haven’t faced a program with Swett’s 4A speed defensively, but wins with a late stop in the final frame.

North Brunswick 20, Swett 14

Lumberton (0-5) at New Hanover (2-2)

Down a few playmakers offensively, going on the road to battle talent-rich New Hanover with its hybrid defense is a lot to ask for the Pirates. After Friday’s game, Lumberton gets some much-needed time off before opening Southeastern Conference play against Pinecrest.

New Hanover 35, Lumberton 13

Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.