Next week’s Scotland-Richmond showdown likely decides the Southeastern Conference champion while a playoff berth is on the line for the Pirates in the annual Swett-Lumberton Backyard Brawl.
There is a pivotal game separating this week from next however.
A win tonight in Laurinburg would alleviate most of the pressure off of next week’s rivalry tilt for the Pirates. An upset loss by the Scots would mean Scotland could only share the SEC title with a win over the Raiders. Lumberton showed its capable of hanging with the league’s elite last week and would like nothing more than to grab a signature road win before the postseason.
Last time the Pirates traveled to Scotland they came away with a 24-19 win. The Scots have since won their first state title and dominated most of the competition this season under new head coach Richard Bailey.
Week 9 record: 4-1; Overall: 35-11
Coming off one of my best weeks of the season, tonight’s slate of games could push me into the 80th percentile with an unblemished record. Lumberton and Purnell Swett are both heavy underdogs on the road while Fairmont hosts a red-hot East Columbus squad fresh off a school-record 60-point outing against St. Pauls.
Lumberton (4-4) at Scotland (7-1)
The task is simple for Lumberton: Win and you're in. A victory can come this week or next, but needs to happen to solidify a wild-card playoff berth as the SEC's fifth-place team. Scotland's fate is set as a high seed, but based on this year's ADM numbers yet to be released, no one knows if the Scots will participate in the 4A or 4AA postseason. Last year, Scotland cruised through the smaller 4A bracket en route to a championship. The Scots have had their one close-call pre-Richmond in SEC play and that happened last week in Raeford.
Scotland 27, Lumberton 7
Purnell Swett (2-6) at Hoke County (7-2)
Hoke County is vying for the SEC's third playoff seed with Pinecrest and needs to win tonight to keep pace with the Patriots. The two square off next week in Southern Pines with the winner taking a probable home game in the first round of the state playoffs. Hoke County's defense couldn't hold Scotland in the second half of last week's defeat, but Swett doesn't have the same kind of talent the Scots possess. The Rams will score an offensive touchdown for the first time in four games but won't be able stop a three-game losing skid thanks to Detrez Newsome and Co.
Hoke 34, Swett 6
South Robeson (3-5) at Red Springs (6-3)
The elusive Three Rivers victory came last week. Will South Robeson compound that success with an upset of Red Springs? Simply put, the Red Devils are playing for too much to let that happen. A win tonight clinches a share of a conference title that can be captured outright next week against West Columbus. At times, the Mustangs have struggled on offense and going up against one of the league’s top-rated defenses, they’ll be in tough predicament tonight. Red Springs has won three straight games since back-to-back losses and seems to be clicking on offense when it counts.
Red Springs 42, South Robeson 12
East Columbus (5-4) at Fairmont (4-5)
Fairmont hopes to get a boost this week from its starting front seven on defense, a group that has played well this season when fully healthy. Defending the pass with an inexperienced secondary is where the problem lies over two conference losses. The Golden Tornadoes have been bitten by the injury bug in recent weeks, most notably quarterback Jarrod Neal. With basketball season a month away, Neal will likely rest his sore ankle and won't play again until he suits up on the hardwood. Fairmont could use his athleticism tonight at home against the conference's second-best team.
East Columbus 34, Fairmont 12
St. Pauls (6-3) at West Columbus (4-5)
Can St. Pauls get back on track away from home? The Bulldogs have lost consecutive road games since going 3-0 during the non-conference slate on the opposition’s turf. After scoring over 40 points six straight games to open the season, St. Pauls’ no-huddle has cooled off in conference play, averaging 26.6 points per game — good enough for third in the league behind East Columbus and Red Springs. St. Pauls will be a force in the postseason if it can get back to the football it played the first two months of the season. The Bulldogs take it personal on defense tonight and take a step in the right direction by handling their business at West Columbus.
St. Pauls 44, West Columbus 18