As high school football kicks off around Robeson County and the state on Friday, some matchups stand out more than others.
This week, the St. Pauls at Grays Creek game has the makings of a great offensive battle.
The Bulldogs will look to bounce back from a 42-28 home loss to the Bears last season when they travel to Hope Mills.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser said. “The guys are always pumped to play (Grays Creek). It’s become a rivalry since they’re right down the road.”
Grays Creek’s district is at the southern tip of Cumberland County across the county line from the St. Pauls district, the northernmost in Robeson County.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the opening game against Grays Creek last season, but the Bears clawed their way back and outscored the hosts 35-14 the rest of the way to claim the victory.
While St. Pauls likes to run a balanced offense, the Bears spend a majority of their time running the ball. It’s a potent rushing attack with Calvin Boyd, T.J. McMillan and Leyland McDonald in the backfield.
“We know what they do well,” Sasser said.
“They don’t disguise a whole lot of stuff. If you’re not able to stop it, it’s going to be a long night for you.”
The Bulldogs also boast the makings of a potent offense, led by seniors Cody McKenna and Tim Billinger. The quarterback-receiver duo connected on three touchdowns against the Bears last season, which served as a kickstart for the rest of the year.
“On offense, it does help having returners at the skill positions,” Sasser said. “We have to play well. Discipline and intensity on the defensive side — assignment football — is a must.”
Fairmont at Westover
In Mark Heil’s debut as coach, the Golden Tornadoes will travel to Westover to start a stretch of tough non-conference games. The Wolverines are looking to bounce back from a 1-10 season.
Red Springs vs. Sandhills Titans
The Red Devils open the season with three consecutive home games, starting with Sandhills Titans on Friday.
South Robeson at West Bladen
The Mustangs will open the season against West Bladen for the second consecutive year, traveling to Dublin. The Knights claimed a 42-8 victory over South Robeson last season.
Lumberton at Hunt
The Pirates have a tough stretch starting out, hittting the road for three of their first four games. It starts with a non-conference opener at Hunt. Lumberton won three games in a row to start last season.
Purnell Swett vs. Pine Forest
Jon Sherman makes his debut as head coach of the Rams, welcoming the Trojans to Pembroke for a non-conference matchup. Pine Forest claimed a 35-21 victory over the Rams in the season opener last season, before dropping six straight games.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.