South Robeson (3-5, 1-2) at Red Springs (6-3, 3-0)
Coaches: SR — Stephen Roberson; RS — George Coltharp.
Recent history: Before last week’s overtime win over West Columbus, South Robeson’s last Three Rivers Conference victory came against Red Springs in 2009.
What to watch: The Red Devils were dreadful on offense when South Robeson last beat Red Springs three seasons ago. The Red Devils scored just 90 points all season and sputtered to a 1-10 record. Things went very different for both programs over the next two seasons. The Mustangs lost 21 games while the Red Devils rebounded from three wins in 2010 with a 10-win campaign in 2011. Both teams are coming off emotional wins last week and Red Springs is in line for its first conference title since 2004. Should the Red Devils win Friday night, the preseason pick will clinch at least a share of the Three Rivers championship.
Keep an eye on: Red Springs defensive back and wide receiver C.J. McGeachey. Coming off a career game against Fairmont, McGeachey’s confidence level continues to rise as the Red Devils gear up for a postseason run.
East Columbus (5-4, 2-1) at Fairmont (4-5, 1-2)
Coaches: EC — Toby Kasell; FMT — James Atkinson.
Recent history: The Golden Tornadoes have dominated this matchup in recent years with a 22.4 point-per-game margin of victory over the last five contests dating back to 2005.
What to watch: Fairmont has lost consecutive games in conference play for the first time in four years and the road doesn’t get much easier this week against East Columbus, a squad whose last three losses have come by a total of 14 points. The Gators erupted for a school-record 60 points last week against St. Pauls while the Golden Tornadoes suffered their first defeat to Red Springs since 2008. Fairmont quarterback Jarrod Neal will likely miss the final two games after re-aggravating an injury he suffered against West Columbus in last week’s game at Red Springs. Luke Hunt, Chais Tolbert and Shemar Barfield should share snaps in his absence.
Keep an eye on: Tolbert is Fairmont’s top remaining weapon with the ball in his hands. He’s a threat on offense and has played at receiver, running back and quarterback this season.
St. Pauls (6-3, 1-2) at West Columbus (4-5, 1-2)
Coaches: STP — Trey Sasser; WC — Mark Little.
Recent history: St. Pauls has won back-to-back games in the series since losing consecutive games in 2008 and 2009.
What to watch: St. Pauls will try and bounce back from last week’s disappointing effort at East Columbus with a return trip to Columbus County on Friday night. This one could be a shootout considering the Vikings and Bulldogs rank fifth and sixth in the conference in total defense and both teams have formidable offenses. St. Pauls needs to win out to secure a first-round home game in the state playoffs. West Columbus’ last two games have been decided in crunch time, a sign that Mark Little is turning around program that has struggled in recent years.
Keep an eye on: St. Pauls running back Shawn Williams whose numbers have dipped just a bit on the ground in the Three Rivers Conference. He’ll have an opportunity at a big outing against a defense that gave up nearly 200 yards rushing last week in Rowland.
Lumberton (4-4, 0-3) at Scotland (7-1, 3-0)
Coaches: LHS — Mike Brill; SCOT — Richard Bailey.
Recent history: This series is even at four since 2004 with the Pirates winning three of the last four contests including a five-point win in Laurinburg the last road trip.
What to watch: The Pirates have lost three straight games and will make the playoffs as a wild-card with one win over these final two weeks. That means a road game in the first in the Mideast pod against these same Scots, Richmond or Jack Britt. At least Lumberton would be familiar with its opponent. Tailback Daniel Robinson averaged just over five yards per carry against the Raiders last week but the Pirates couldn’t score enough touchdowns. Friday, Lumberton will try and defend the conference’s most well-balanced offense, a unit coming off a come-from-behind win at Hoke.
Keep an eye on: Artemis Robinson, Scotland’s stud linebacker and Shrine Bowl selection who creates problems for opposing offenses with above average ball skills and a knack for getting his nose to the football.
Purnell Swett (2-6, 0-3) at Hoke County (7-2, 1-2)
Coaches: PS — Mark Heil; HC — Milton Butts.
Recent history: Swett captured a 34-18 win over the Bucks last season to secure a playoff berth. The Rams’ last win in Raeford came in 2007. Swett went on to finish 10-4 that season.
What to watch: Can the Rams muster enough offense to hang with the Bucks? Hoke’s high-powered offense has simmered down a bit in the Southeastern Conference but it’s still a unit that can score points in a hurry — not a good sign against a defense giving up 42.2 points per game this season. The Bucks are also playing for a high seed in the playoffs, so this one’s a must-win against a squad that’s lost three straight games.
Keep an eye on: Hoke’s Detrez Newsome, an elusive three-year starter at tailback with the SEC’s best combination of speed and agility.