Nothing to lose.
That’s the mentality Purnell Swett and Lumberton should take into Friday’s Southeastern Conference openers against two unbeatens.
Teams can move mountains when they play loose within the confines of their own environment, but there’s a chance not even near-perfect outings would be enough against Pinecrest and Scotland.
Swett and Lumberton have combined for 10 losses thus far — the most defeats prior to the start of league play since 2004 — and take on Scotland and Pinecrest as heavy underdogs.
The lack of difference makers is what both teams are struggling with right now. Lumberton’s best player on offense, Josh Sheridan, isn’t 100 percent and Purnell Swett’s still figuring things out behind an inexperienced offensive line. Converting an early fourth down or forcing a momentum-changing turnover is what both programs need to put pressure on the opposition.
Week 7 Record: 3-1; Overall 22-11
I bounced back with a 3-1 record last week, the only loss coming with Whiteville’s comeback win at St. Pauls. There’s a couple upset possibilities I’m willing to take on the horizon, but not this week.
South Columbus (4-2, 2-0) at South Robeson (5-1, 2-0)
Make it through the first half. That’s the key for South Robeson this week against conference favorite South Columbus, a team that comes in red hot averagining nearly 50 points per contest. The Mustangs believe they can control time of possession behind a confident offensive line and if that happens, South Robeson’s got a shot. Hanging on to the football is vital for South Robeson against the league’s leader in takeaways. Should South Columbus pull ahead by two touchdowns in the first quarter, this one’s over.
South Columbus 42, South Robeson 20
Red Springs (0-6, 0-2) at Whiteville (5-1, 2-0)
Here’s another Robeson County football program with nothing to lose, the winless Red Devils. Despite everything going wrong this season at Red Springs, the players remain confident they can turn things around over the last month to try and earn a playoff berth. It needs to start against Whiteville, but the Wolfpack’s ground game is likely too strong.
Whiteville 28, Red Springs 20
West Columbus (2-4, 0-2) at St. Pauls (4-2, 1-1)
What’s the best way to erase the taste of a disappointing loss? Get back on the field. After squandering a two-touchdown lead last week, the Bulldogs bounce back in a big way with better execution in the passing game. St. Pauls is still very much a Three Rivers contender, but needs to win out for a shot at the conference crowd.
St. Pauls 36, West Columbus 6
East Columbus (2-4, 0-2) at Fairmont (5-1, 1-1)
Fairmont has South Columbus, South Robeson and Whiteville in its sights as far as the Three Rivers Conference championship goes and despite losing its league opener to St. Pauls, the Golden Tornadoes still control their own destiny. If Fairmont wins out, it’ll clinch at least a share of the title. That starts Friday at home against East Columbus in a matchup the Golden Tornadoes can’t afford to look past.
Fairmont 42, East Columbus 6
Scotland (6-0) at Purnell Swett (2-4)
Scotland’s defense is the best Swett has faced this season, an athletic group with a dominant secondary and size up front. The Rams have been careless with the football at times and giving it back to the Scots’ high-powered offense isn’t a winning formula. Swett may hang around for a half with Scotland getting back to what it does best in the trenches after intermission.
Scotland 38, Swett 14
Pinecrest (6-0) at Lumberton (0-6)
Lumberton’s been the most difficult team to predict this season. It’s homecoming and if there’s a team in the SEC that matches up well for the Pirates, Pinecrest is it. That doesn’t mean the execution will be there however, evidenced by what happened against Hoggard the last time this team played at Alton G. Brooks Stadium. Lumberton’s defense has not been given enough credit this season, lost amid the defeats. If that unit comes up with a late stop, the outcome could be different.
Pinecrest 28, Lumberton 21
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.