LAURINBURG — Scotland lost just one game in the regular season last year, a 21-16 home defeat at the hands of New Hanover. And the Scots have not forgotten it.
Immediately after last Friday’s 53-31 win over Southern High School in Durham, Scotland coach Richard Bailey turned the focus to this game. After congratulating his players for the win, Bailey said it was time to start getting ready for New Hanover, and several players nodded along with their coach.
Last year’s loss was the only time Scotland slipped up until deep into the state playoffs when they lost to New Bern. Likewise, New Hanover only suffered two losses, both to New Bern. A large part of New Hanover’s success in 2012 was due to an unprecedented number of senior players.
“Their entire offensive line was seniors last year,” Bailey said. “They had 48 seniors on the roster, which is unheard of.”
While New Hanover lost large chunks of their team, they still have talent. Bailey said their junior varsity team looked very good last season. New Hanover opened this season with a loss in Conway, S.C. but have won the last two games to improve to 2-1.
“They beat us last year so we want to prove a point or enact revenge of some kind, but we don’t want to lose anyway no matter who we’re playing,” Bailey said. “They’re a very good football team and it is not lost on our team that they beat us last year.”
In addition to preparing for another long road trip a week after going to Durham, Bailey said injuries continue to nag the Scots. Backup quarterback Jaleel McLean will likely be unavailable tonight after injuring his knee against Southern. McLean, who played almost the entire second half, did not leave the game with an injury but his knee had swollen up the next day.
Linebackers Brandon McMillian and Marquis Williams are both nursing sore calves and had to sit out of some practices this week. In addition, starting offensive lineman Dre Rivers is out for the season.
“I feel like we’re going to be focused and I just hope we’re healthy enough to accomplish it,” Bailey said.
Scotland’s off-week comes next Friday, before they return home to face Goldsboro.
“We need that week off. It’s coming at a good time for us if we can get by this game,” Bailey said.
New Hanover likes to have extra numbers in the box, so quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe should see a lot of action, something that has been working out for the Scots so far this season.
“I anticipate the quarterback having to carry the ball a lot. They like to overload the box against the run, so in less you commit your quarterback to running you’re behind in the game, because you don’t have enough guys to block them all,” Bailey said.
Running the ball with Ratliffe instead of a running back will give Scotland an extra blocker.
With so many defenders trying to stop the run, look for Scotland to throw the ball more than they have been this year. Bailey said he would not be surprised if the Scots throw the ball 20-25 times, which is a lot for a team that prefers to run the ball as often as possible.