The Robesonian previously reported the wrong name of Purnell Swett’s quarterback on the final drive of the Rams’ game against West Brunswick. Here’s the updated version.
LUMBERTON — Lumberton High School played host to the inaugural Battle of the Carolinas Football Classic on Thursday night, giving the community an opportunity to check out some football prior to the start of the regular season next week.
For Robeson County’s three teams competing, the night served as a measuring stick for the weeks to come.
Representing North Carolina — and Robeson County — were Lumberton, Purnell Swett and Fairmont. West Brunswick and East Bladen also represented the Tar Heel State. Dillon, Latta and Lake View traveled from South Carolina to participate.
The Golden Tornadoes were the only county team to claim a victory, beating Lake View 16-15 in arguably the best game of the night.
Known for its offensive firepower last season, it was the play of the Golden Tornado defense late that proved to be the difference.
“We got better as the scrimmage went on,” said Fairmont coach Mark Heil. “On defense, we got a little more physical and we still have a way to go to get in shape but I thought we improved.”
After taking a 16-15 lead on a pass from Julius Caulder to Jarique Moore and two-point conversion, Fairmont’s defense held strong in the closing minutes, stopping the Gators on four straight possessions, including the final possession with seconds left.
“It’s a work in progress,” Heil said. “We bowed a little, but we stopped them. That’s something we’ve got to feed off.”
Lake View scored on its first possession, taking an early 7-0 lead after a 25-yard run and extra point.
But Fairmont answered, scoring on its first play from scrimmage after Keith McDaniel broke free for an 80-yard rushing touchdown. The Golden Tornadoes completed the two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead. The Gators would take back the lead in the second half of the scrimmage, scoring on a short run before Fairmont took the lead for good.
In the third game of the night, Purnell Swett struggled to get anything going against West Brunswick, trailing 18-0 before forcing a safety with under a minute left to play for its only points of the game.
The young Rams showed some promise on the final drive as jayvee quarterback Luke Oxendine led the team to the goal line, but a fumble prevented the chance for a late touchdown.
For first-year coach Jon Sherman, the game showed the inexperience of the Rams.
“First time in a game situation (for these guys), there were a lot of jitters,” Sherman said. “We had a lot of penalties and mistakes on the offensive side of the ball. That’s something we’re going to fix it.”
Outside of the two long touchdowns by the Trojans, the Purnell Swett defense held its own for most of the game.
While he was disappointed with the result, Sherman was optimistic about the play of his young squad.
“We got tired, but I like what the jayvee (players) did,” he said. “They came out and played hard those last six minutes. We’ll get better.”
In the final game of the evening, host Lumberton battled against the Dillon Wildcats — the most impressive team of the night.
The Wildcats — winners of three straight 2A state championships in South Carolina — jumped out to a 42-0 lead before Lumberton earned its only points of the game.
Star quarterback Avery McCall didn’t disappoint, throwing a touchdown on the first possession of the game to set the pace for the Wildcats in the 42-7 victory.
Despite the score, the Pirates did showed glimpses of promise throughout the contest. Tyreik McCallum snagged an early interception and freshman quarterback Braylon Grice showed poise in the pocket despite a few miscues.
Grice connected with McCallum on a few deep passes, including a 60-yard bomb for a first down that led to a touchdown run by Javonte McDougald in the closing minutes.
“I like the way that we competed,” Lumberton coach Mike Setzer said. “I wanted to see that — us growing up a little bit. They kept going and pushing themselves. Obviously, we didn’t like the score but we know they’re a powerhouse for a reason.”
Setzer was particularly impressed with the composure of his 13-year-old freshman quarterback.
“A 13-year-old kid on his first night under the lights playing a state champion. To take a couple of lumps and to come back to make some big plays, we’re excited about that.”
As Lumberton turns its focus to the regular season, Setzer was thankful for the opportunity to scrimmage against a quality team early on.
“We were able to see a lot of places where we have room for improvement,” he said. “We’re very appreciative of Dillon participating because down the road we’ll see some stellar competition. Nowhere but up from here. We’re happy with the way we competed, but we have a lot of work to do.”
At night’s end, each state claimed two victories. Latta defeated East Bladen 8-7 in the first game of the night to give South Carolina an early edge.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.