Friday night’s rivalry game between the Fighting Scots and Marlboro County moved along at a brisk pace until the fourth quarter. Though Scotland was driving at the start of the final 12 minute period, it was their only successful offensive series in the second half of regulation as the Bulldogs dictated the pace of the game and climbed within a single point of the Fighting Scots. Prior to the fourth, the Scots managed just 31 yards on 11 plays the quarter before, with 12 of those coming on a pass play between Jaylend Ratliffe and TreShawn Gregory in the closing seconds.
But then the Marlboro injury timeouts started. Either due to crushing hits or cramping, Bulldogs players were often slow to get up in the fourth quarter which resulted in frequent game stoppages. And though they gave Scotland a scare on their first offensive possession of the quarter by continuing to ride the accurate arm of quarterback Xavier Adams, the spark of energy didn’t last long.
Marlboro County simply appeared winded. And according to Scotland Coach Richard Bailey, that was part of the Fighting Scots’ game plan in the days leading up to their 20-12 week 3 victory.
“We had a feeling we could out-condition them heading into the game, and you saw that in the second half” said Bailey after the game. “We stayed the course throughout the game and continued wearing them down and at the end they were dropping like flies.”
The game between Scotland and the Bulldogs appeared eerily similar to when New Hanover dealt the Fighting Scots their first loss since the 2010-11 season last week. The losing teams were both held to barely 220 total yards and were forced to pass after their running attack proved largely ineffective.
And in both games, the teams that executed the ground-and-pound offensive approach best were victorious as they controlled the time of possession and wore down the losing team’s defense.
In many ways, Scotland resembled the New Hanover Wildcats team that ran the ball right at them in week 2. And in doing so, they possibly found their blueprint for a successful 2012 season.
“We were not good against New Hanover, they had their way against us,” Bailey said. “Going into our game against the Bulldogs, we knew that if we didn’t run the football we would lose. We emphasized our running game and interior run defense in practice all week and it paid off.”
While he proved instrumental in moving the chains throughout the game, Scotland running back Josh McPhatter also had runs of 22, 18 and 19 yards en route to an 18 carry, 121-yard, two touchdown night against a Marlboro County team that held its first two regular season opponents scoreless.
Another telling element in Scotland’s week 3 win was the cutting down of costly mistakes. From cut block penalties to false starts, the Fighting Scots found themselves in one precarious situation after another against New Hanover, handicapping their offense on the few occasions where they built some semblance of momentum.
The Fighting Scots didn’t register their first penalty until the third quarter against Marlboro County, while the Bulldogs (once again echoing Scotland’s performance in week 2) frequently offset their rhythm on both sides of the ball by amassing 70 penalty yards, with 45 of those coming off of personal fouls.
Staying true to Bailey’s recipe for victory, Scotland utilized consistent special teams play to frequently place them in position to make big plays. Marlboro County’s final chance on offense was squelched after Scotland senior defensive back Malik Diggs hopped on a fumbled kickoff return late in the fourth quarter.
And throughout the game, sophomore kicker Ben Utter proved invaluable.
“Ben made some huge field goals and crucial punts for us out there,” Bailey said. “It takes a lot for a sophomore kicker to not get rattled in a big game like this, and Ben showed a lot of guts tonight.”
But perhaps most telling of all was Scotland’s sense of urgency despite the season being in its infancy. While the energy level of Marlboro County continued to fade in the waning moments of the game, Scotland remained aggressive throughout.
Conditioning most certainly was a factor in the game. But for senior outside linebacker Artemis Robinson, the Fighting Scots had much to prove after surrendering a loss to New Hanover.
“When your back is against the wall, you either fight back or get knocked down,” Robinson said. “But well came together out there against the Bulldogs and had a great team effort. I think you saw a lot of the pieces of the puzzle fall in place tonight.”
Scotland 20, Marlboro County 12
SHS — Ben Utter 23-yard field goal GOOD
MC— Xavier Adams to Jaquan Cole 36-yard TD pass (PAT FAILED)
SHS —Josh McPhatter 18-yard TD run (Utter PAT)
SHS — Ben Utter 21-yard field goal GOOD
MC —Xavier Adams to Fred David 10-yard TD pass (PAT FAILED)
SHS—Josh McPhatter 3-yard TD run (Utter PAT)
TEAM STATISTICS ;
Passing yards;26; 146
MC: Reggie Bright 8 carries-35 yards, Jaquan Cole 5 carries-24 yards, Xavier Adams 6 carries-15 yards
SHS: Josh McPhatter 18 carries-121 yards, Jalen McLean 18 carries-48 yards, Jaylend Ratliffe 8 carries-32 yards, Tre Thomas 1 carry-11 yards, Justin Brown 1 carry-(-1) yards
MC: Xavier Adams 18-21, 146 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.
SHS: Jaylend Ratliffe 3-7, 26 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT.
MC: Jaquan Cole 2 catches-43 yards, Raheem Ward 5 catches-39 yards, Fred David 5 catches-31 yards, Mike McManus 3 catches-21 yards, Deon Murray 1 catch-10 yards, Javori Ford 2 catches-2 yards
SHS: Jalen McLean 1 catch-14 yards, TreShawn Gregory 1 catch-12 yards
RECORDS: Marlboro County 2-1, SHS 2-1