Here’s a look from staff writer Brad Crawford at Friday’s Week 7 high school football games involving teams from Robeson County:
South Robeson (4-1, 1-0) at East Columbus (2-3, 0-1)
Coaches: SR — Stephen Roberson; EC — Chris Haney
Recent history: South Robeson’s lost six consecutive games to East Columbus with the margin of defeat coming by an average of 26 points per contest.
What to watch: Now that the rivalry win over Red Springs is behind them, the Mustangs shift their focus to East Columbus, a nemesis that’s had South Robeson’s number over the last decade. The Gators are a program on the mend, struggling with numbers and having been outscored by nearly 150 points in three losses. Last week against Whiteville, East Columbus gave up more than 300 yards rushing and never got going offensively. South Robeson utilizes a similar relentless attack, but prefers running out out of the I-Formation versus the Wing-T set.
Keep an eye on: East Columbus senior running back Nick McClure is the Gators’ best option at slowing down South Robeson’s two-headed attack featuring Juan Ellerbe and Andrew Hill. If East Columbus plays keep away and controls the clock, it’ll be up to the Gators’ defense to limit the Mustangs.
Whiteville (4-1, 1-0) at St. Pauls (4-1, 1-0)
Coaches: STP — Trey Sasser; WHS —Luke Little
Recent history: St. Pauls lost its last head-to-head meeting with Whiteville, 37-20, in 2004.
What to watch: Coming off its first shutout victory in four years and first league-opening win since 2009, Whiteville heads into St. Pauls with confidence, much like the Bulldogs after their momentum-building opener at Fairmont. The Three Rivers Conference’s top early-season matchup pits two of the league’s top rushing attacks against defenses that seem to both be getting stronger. Sophomore flanker Nate Powell is a player to watch for the Wolfpack after scoring on touchdown runs of 53 and 12 yards and on a 65-yard pass from Dylan Williams last week.
Keep an eye on: St. Pauls had nearly two weeks to game plan for the conference’s top quarterback in Jarrod Neal but now the Bulldogs’ defense sets its sights on Terrin Manning, Whiteville’s power back. Manning rushed for 147 yards and three scores in last week’s win over East Columbus.
Red Springs (0-5, 0-1) at South Columbus (3-2, 1-0)
Coaches: RS — George Coltharp; SC — Jake Fonvielle
Recent history: Red Springs has never beaten South Columbus, falling most recently in 2012 by two touchdowns.
What to watch: Three Rivers Conference newcomer South Columbus has won three straight games since opening the season with back-to-back losses and beat West Columbus for the 20th consecutive time last week. Senior defensive back Reggie Frink, a player that intercepted Blake Greene three times during last season’s win at Red Springs, rushed for two touchdowns and returned a pick for a score in the Stallions’ most recent win. South Columbus is seeking its 14th conference title in school history but will have to go through 2012’s defending champ to keep pace.
Keep an eye on: Red Springs quarterback Blake Greene is justifiably the Red Devils’ best shot at an upset, a player who’s responsible for more than 120 touchdowns over his career. He’s struggled behind an inexperienced offensive line thus far but the program’s first-ever win over South Columbus would go a long way in re-establishing No. 7 as one of the league’s elite playmakers.
Fairmont (4-1, 0-1) at West Columbus (2-3, 0-1)
Coaches: FMT —Randy Ragland; WC — Mark Little
Recent history: The Golden Tornadoes’ 32-30 lost last season to West Columbus snapped a three-game winning streak in the series. Fairmont’s 22-19 all-time against the Vikings.
What to watch: In a matchup of 0-1 conference teams, this one’s a must-win for the Golden Tornadoes should Randy Ragland’s squad expect to stay in the race for a Three Rivers crown. Coach Mark Little’s found a playmaker on offense in junior tailback Rostin Bromell as the two-way starter’s already rushed for 370 yards and six touchdowns. It doesn’t appear Fairmont quarterback Jarrod Neal will pass Blake Greene’s record of 51 touchdown passes he set last season, but the accurate signal caller has a chance to come close should the Golden Tornadoes keep winning.
Keep an eye on: Fairmont’s strength at wide receiver against West Columbus’ inexperienced secondary. The Vikings don’t have the numbers to match up with the Golden Tornadoes’ four- and five-wide receiver sets and Neal should be able to make a big play early in the passing game.
6. Red Springs (0-5, 0-1): Things haven’t gone as planned for the Red Devils this season after being picked as one of the favorites to win another Three Rivers Conference title. Robeson County’s 2012 leading rusher Doody Lesane was dismissed from the team prior to last week’s loss after a violation of team rules and without a running game this season, the Red Devils have struggled. Defensively, Red Springs hasn’t been able to stop the run either.
5. Lumberton (0-6): Senior captain Demetri Sheridan’s nearing the 100-tackle mark and there’s still five Southeastern Conference games left to play — that’s how dominant he’s been from his linebacker position this season. He’s the top playmaker at a program lacking veterans, something that reveals itself in the win-loss column. Lumberton’s talented enough defensively to win a couple games in conference play, but doesn’t have the firepower on offense to hang with league elites Richmond or Scotland.
4. Purnell Swett (2-4): Down but not out, the Rams showed they still had some left in tank after last week’s victory at unbeaten North Brunswick. For the first time this season, Swett’s defense and offense managed a complete game and the result was satisfying. Mark Heil and his staff get a week off to try and figure out the best way to attack the unbeaten Scots in Pembroke on Oct. 11.
3. South Robeson (4-1, 1-0): One of two local teams to pick up steam during Validation Week, the Mustangs proved they could win a big game at home on Friday with a victory over Red Springs. South Robeson’s won four straight games with a combination of run-game dominance and an opportunistic defense that’s made plays in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs’ stingy secondary is among the area’s best.
2. Fairmont (4-1, 0-1): If there’s one game the Golden Tornadoes needed to win prior to Oct. 1, it was Saturday’s matchup with St. Pauls. In its first real test, Fairmont struggled defensively against St. Pauls’ well-balanced attack orchestrated by offensive coordinator Scott Barbour. there is no ‘back to the drawing board’ with a team this talented, but now the Golden Tornadoes have no margin for error in getting back to the top of the conference standings.
1. St. Pauls (4-1, 1-0): The Bulldogs delivered Robeson County football’s most impressive performance of the season Saturday night in Fairmont, downing the Golden Tornadoes, 42-36, to snap the opposition’s four-game win streak. Malik Livingston’s coming around as one of the area’s top quarterbacks and tailback Damien McMillan’s shown an ability to find the goal line when St. Pauls reaches the red zone. If the defense continues its progress, this is a team that could challenge South Columbus for the conference championship.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.