Here’s a look from staff writer Brad Crawford at Friday’s Week 6 high school football games involving teams from Robeson County:
St. Pauls (3-1) at Fairmont (4-0)
Coaches: STP — Trey Sasser; FMT — Randy Ragland
Recent history: Fairmont leads the all-time series 28-20, but saw its four-game winning streak snapped last season at St. Pauls, 54-8.
What to watch: Defense vs. Offense. The Bulldogs’ talented, but inexperienced secondary against a Fairmont passing attack that hasn’t been stopped this season. Senior quarterback Jarrod Neal has thrown at least four touchdown passes in every game thus far and Fairmont’s collection of lanky wide receivers has posed matchup problems for every opposing defense. Generating a pass rush is something St. Pauls will try and accomplish against a veteran offensive line that’s done a great job protecting Neal early on. Fairmont’s turned it over at least twice in 3-of-4 games this season, but its offense has scored enough points to disguise the fumbling problems.
Keep an eye on: St. Pauls quarterback Malik Livingston and his ability to keep Fairmont’s offense off the field will be vital to the Bulldogs’ chances in their conference opener. Livingston’s thrown four touchdown passes and rushed for four others this season while improving each week as a first-year signal caller.
Red Springs (0-4) at South Robeson (3-1)
Coaches: RS — George Coltharp; SR — Stephen Roberson
Recent history: Despite leading the all-time series 22-12, South Robeson has lost three straight games to the Red Devils.
What to watch: Friday’s Three Rivers opener for both teams has been selected as Time Warner Cable’s Game of the Week and can be seen Saturday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on TWC’s channel 60. After that, the game can be viewed On Demand via channel 1083. Red Springs is defending its first league crown since 2004 against a Mustangs squad hoping to turn the corner in Stephen Roberson’s second season. This would be the first step, according to Roberson, in South Robeson’s return to glory, so to speak, should the Mustangs prevail. Thus far, the Red Devils are winless with every loss coming against a 3A or 4A level program. South Robeson’s been on cruise control since a season-opening setback at West Bladen.
Keep an eye on: South Robeson’s two-back tandem of Andrew Hill and Juan Ellerbe. The pair has combined for 12 touchdowns and nearly 800 yards rushing thus far and is matched up against a defense that’s struggled against the run. Something has to give up front when these two teams tangle on Friday night.
Swett (1-4) at North Brunswick (5-0)
Coaches: PS — Mark Heil; NB — Garry Bishop
Recent history: Friday marks the first meeting between the two schools.
What to watch: The Scorpions are off to an unbeaten start with a balanced offense and defense that’s forced a ton of turnovers the first five weeks of the season. Senior quarterback Randy Clark’s only completed 27 passes but 11 of those have gone for touchdowns. In the other backfield, Swett’s Thristian Lowry is coming off his best career game with a four-touchdown performance, but the Rams still haven’t generated a rushing attack behind an inexperienced offensive line. Swett lost its fourth game of the season last week after giving up four touchdowns of at least 30 yards.
Keep an eye on: Swett’s senior wide receiver Tyler Maynor who broke out of a personal slump with 11 catches for 149 yards against Anson. Maynor’s one of the few standouts on offense that’s a threat to take it the distance any time the ball’s in his hands and made the defense pay when given opportunities last week.
Lumberton (0-5) at New Hanover (2-2)
Coaches: LHS — Joe Salas; NH — Kevin Motsinger
Recent history: Lumberton’s 1-1 all-time against the Wildcats from Wilmington.
What to watch: The Pirates’ confidence level took a shot in the arm last week following a deflating home shutout loss to Hoggard after Lumberton had prepared with a solid week of practice. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t bounce a team’s way and the injury bug has hit the Pirates hard over the last two games. Down to their third-string quarterback, a player not expected to see time at the varsity level this season, Lumberton will have its hands full against one of the strongest front sevens it has faced thus far.
Keep an eye on: Ramone Simpson, New Hanover’s talented tailback that rushed for 251 yards and five touchdowns against Purnell Swett in Pembroke two weeks ago. The Wildcats are looking to bounce back from a 30-point loss to Scotland in their second home game of the season.
6. Lumberton (0-5): Overmatched and undermanned against Hoggard last week, the Pirates stumbled to their fifth consecutive loss to open the season. Down to their third-string quarterback, Lumberton couldn’t muster anything on offense and suffered defensively as a result. The final non-conference game is a tough one Friday at New Hanover inside Legion Stadium.
5. Red Springs (0-4): Coming off a bye, the second season starts for the Red Devils in Rowland where Red Springs will begin its defense of a Three Rivers Conference title. In need of wins to qualify for the postseason, getting out of an 0-4 hole with seven games remaining must begin Friday night.
4. Swett (1-4): Swett gets another crack this week at a win in a final non-conference tuneup prior to opening Southeastern Conference play on Oct. 11. The Rams stay put in the No. 4 slot on a three-game losing skid until the Red Devils or Pirates get into the win column.
3. South Robeson (3-1): The Mustangs’ shot at getting a leg up on the rest of the competition in the Three Rivers comes Friday in a televised contest against Red Springs, South Robeson’s biggest home game of the Stephen Roberson era. The Mustangs are Robeson County’s only team that played last week, so fatigue could be a factor late against a speedy offense led by the state’s reigning 1A player of the year.
2. St. Pauls (3-1): The coaching staff at St. Pauls will be the first to tell you they’ll have their hands full against Fairmont, but if the Bulldogs have their sights set on a conference title, the mission starts Friday. The off week gave St. Pauls a few extra days to nurse injuries up front to two starting offensive linemen and a couple extra reps defensively in prep for a wide -open passing attack.
1. Fairmont (4-0): What Fairmont’s done until this point doesn’t mean much if the Golden Tornadoes don’t take care of business in their conference opener. Ragland’s group takes on their toughest opponent to date on Friday, so let’s see if the passing attack can maintain its 2A state-leading pace against an athletic, but unproven, secondary. “Validation Week” has a nice ring to it for the Golden Tornadoes.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.