Purnell Swett (2-7, 0-4) at Lumberton (4-5, 0-4)
Coaches: PS — Mark Heil; LHS — Mike Brill.
Recent history: Purnell Swett has won 16 of the last 22 meetings against Lumberton including 7-of-8 dating back to 2004. The Pirates’ last victory in the series came at home four years ago.
What to watch: It doesn’t get any bigger than this as far as the Pirates are concerned. A victory secures a playoff berth for Lumberton who has stumbled in the Southeastern Conference — like the Rams — with four consecutive losses. If Swett wins, the Pirates’ postseason hopes weaken significantly as a possible wild-card invite. Both coaches have kept quiet this week on injuries and several key players for the Pirates are questionable. Swett is coming off a momentum-building loss at Hoke County during which it scored its first two offensive touchdowns in a month.
Keep an eye on: Jez Dees, Lumberton’s quarterback who has a strong arm with precision especially when the Pirates run the ball effectively. A key play in the passing game Friday night could be just what Lumberton needs against a defense that is sure to stack the box at the line of scrimmage. Montrae Strother, last season’s signal caller who transferred then returned, could also see snaps under center.
Red Springs (7-3, 4-0) at West Columbus (4-6, 1-3)
Coaches: RS — George Coltharp; WC — Mark Little.
Recent history: Red Springs has won three straight games over the Vikings and has allowed 13 total points in those contests.
What to watch: West Columbus stands in the way of Red Springs' first outright conference championship since 2004 when the Red Devils outlasted Clinton atop the Tri-Six. The Red Devils limped into Three Rivers play with back-to-back losses in September but haven't lost this month. The Vikings had trouble defending the pass and the run against St. Pauls and Red Springs enters this one will a similar fast-paced attack. Coach George Coltharp is asking all Red Devil fans to make the short trek to Cerro Gordo for a possible league title before filling up the Inferno next week in the first round of the state playoffs.
Keep an eye on: With three more touchdowns, Blake Greene hits 50 for the regular season, eight more than he had all of his sophomore campaign.
Fairmont (4-6, 1-3) at St. Pauls (7-3, 2-2)
Coaches: FMT — James Atkinson; STP — Trey Sasser.
Recent history: The Bulldogs' last win over the Golden Tornadoes came in 2007. Fairmont has dominated the recent rivalry and will finish under .500 for the first time in the Three Rivers Conference's four-year history.
What to watch: A team that was shut out last week without its starting quarterback that's looking to close the lid on a disappointing season. Fairmont's tough predicament parlays into a perfect opportunity for St. Pauls' defense to pick up more momentum after last week's impressive win over West Columbus. Injuries have decimated the Golden Tornadoes who will turn in their fourth losing season in the last six years.
Keep an eye on: St. Pauls quarterback Kane Banner, the county’s most improved player. Banner has a chance to surpass 2,500 yards of total offense this season and has already accounted for a team-leading 26 touchdowns, second in the Three Rivers Conference. Teammate Shawn Williams ranks third with 25.
South Robeson (3-6, 1-3) at East Columbus (6-4, 3-1)
Coaches: SR — Stephen Roberson; EC — Toby Kasell.
Recent history: East Columbus has won five straight against South Robeson, outscoring the Mustangs 156-48 in the process.
What to watch: After battling first-place Red Springs on the road last week, South Robeson takes on an equally tough opponent in Lake Waccamaw. The Gators will likely receive the Three Rivers’ second playoff seed in the state playoffs and could meet the Red Devils — should both teams win — in the second round. Blake Greene did what he wanted against South Robeson’s defense last week, but luckily for the Mustangs, East Columbus’ focus is on the ground not through the air. Avoiding turnovers and moving the chains is paramount for Roberson's group.
Keep an eye on: Kalvis Chavis, South Robeson's wide receiver turned quarterback who threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Shanquell Thompson in last week's loss at Red Springs. He's a playmaker who has the ball in his hands every snap.