St. Pauls (5-1) at Red Springs (3-3)
Coaches: STP — Trey Sasser; RS — George Coltharp.
Recent history: St. Pauls took one to the chops last season at home, falling to Red Springs’ Air Raid offense in its first season under George Coltharp, 57-6.
What to watch: Offense, offense, offense. Before last week’s games, this one was circled as Robeson County’s “Game of the Year”, for proper reasons. Fans like touchdowns and these two teams can certainly score ‘em. But injuries to Red Springs’ two best players takes the excitement down a notch. Still, the winner of this game is likely the front-runner — outside of East Columbus — to win a Three Rivers Conference crown. Get there early if you want a spot on the 50. Seating is limited at the 1A school and officials expect a few thousand in attendance.
Keep an eye on: Red Springs wideout Zach Leach becomes the go-to option in an offense expected to be without all-state candidate JuJu Brown. Brown’s production will be missed but Leach ranks second in the county in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Fairmont (3-3) at South Robeson (2-3)
Coaches: FMT — James Atkinson; SR — Stephen Roberson.
Recent history: The Golden Tornadoes have won the last eight games in the series and haven’t dropped a conference game since Oct. 16, 2009.
What to watch: In this battle of first-year head coaches, Fairmont looks to have the edge with nearly twice as many skill players as the Mustangs. As far as confidence goes, however, South Robeson’s intent on snapping a lengthy league losing streak and it gets the perfect opportunity at home against the two-time defending Three Rivers champions. Fairmont has dominated this series in recent memory, but that has a lot to do with the Mustangs being down for nearly a decade following Mike Brill’s departure. South Robeson’s last win over Fairmont came on Oct. 24, 2003, a 49-0 effort under then coach Barry Leonard.
Keep an eye on: Deshawn Fields, Fairmont’s lanky wide receiver who out-leaped defenders on two separate touchdown receptions in last week’s victory over Jones Senior.
Lumberton (4-1) at Pinecrest (3-3)
Coaches: LHS — Mike Brill; PC — Chris Metzger.
Recent history: The Pirates beat the Patriots 14-10 last season and hasn’t loss to Pinecrest since the Southeastern Conference reformed in 2009.
What to watch: The Veer option against the Wing-T. You want high-powered offenses squaring off against another, this isn’t it. This SEC opener for both teams is about as smashmouth as you can get, with a downhill charge from the backfield behind each offensive line. Lumberton is coming off a bye week, but Pinecrest played — and performed well — against unbeaten New Hanover. Last time the Pirates went to Southern Pines, they came back with a hard-fought 30-20 win. Lumberton’s rides a three-game winning streak into this game and has all of its horses ready for the stretch run.
Keep an eye on: Daniel Robinson, who else? Lumberton’s run to a Southeastern Conference title begins and ends with the play of the Pirates’ veteran running back behind an above-average offensive line.
Purnell Swett (2-3) at Scotland (4-1)
Coaches: PS — Mark Heil; SCOT — Richard Bailey.
Recent history: Swett has lost consecutive games to Scotland after beating the Scots in a wild 38-37 affair in 2009.
What to watch: Does Swett have the talent to match up with Scotland’s plethora of athletes? That’s the storyline surrounding this week’s SEC opener for the Rams in Laurinburg against a team some thought would be average in Richard Bailey’s first season. The Scots, however, have been anything but average. Scotland’s only loss thus far is to state-ranked New Hanover and the Scots obliterated Jack Britt a few weeks ago in Hope Mills for their best win of the campaign. Both of Swett’s victories are against small schools and both were a challenge. Swett pulling a rabbit out of a hat will be easier said than done against a team capable of contending for its second straight state championship.
Keep an eye on: Swett’s Andrew Hill, a junior running back whose rushed for more than 100 yards in every game he’s played this season.