LAURINBURG — Scotland has not played a home game since August, but after three consecutive road trips and a week off, the Scots are back in Pate Stadium tonight when Goldsboro (2-3) comes to town.
Since hosting Jack Britt on Aug. 30, Scotland (5-0) has gone on the road to Bennettsville, Durham and Wilmington. The last two games were easy wins for the Scots, with the 21-14 win against Marlboro Count proving to be the only real challenge. So Scotland’s bye week came at a perfect time for a team that was starting to pile up on injuries.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said he used the week without a game to practice things that usually get looked over in the weekly preparation for an opponent.
“We worked on situational things and special teams situations. Punting into the end zone punting out of the end zone, onside kicks, things like that. We worked on fundamentals a little bit more. This time of year we kind of get away from fundamentals as much as we do during the summer so we extended our fundamental periods.”
Getting players back to health was as much of a focus as fundamentals last week, Bailey said.
“The biggest thing we tried to do was get healthy. We sat some people out of practices and let them get some rest,” Bailey said. “We got better at some fundamental skills and things we needed to work on through our first five games. Execution of blocks and that kind of stuff.”
Scotland has had several players pick up knocks this season, with the injury suffered by starting running back Josh McPhatter likely being the most prominent. McPhatter left with an ankle sprain in the second quarter of Scotland’s season-opener against South View on Aug. 23 and has not played since.
McPhatter was cleared to play and returned to practice this Monday, Bailey said. The senior will not see a lot of playing time Friday, Bailey said, as he is still returning to the shape he was in before the injury.
“If he does it will be in a limited capacity just to get him back and used to getting hit and tackled,” Bailey said. “One thing with an ankle injury is you don’t get to do a lot of running, so he’s kind of out of shape in terms of cardiovascular. He’s looked good in practice and it’ll probably take a week or two for him to get back to his old form, but it’s nice to have him out there.”
McPhatter isn’t the only player who benefited from an extra week of rest. Linebackers Brandon McMillian and Marquis Williams and backup quarterback Jaleel McLean were also nursing injuries. McLean did not dress for the game in New Hanover, but was able to practice this week.
“McLean is good. He practiced this week and looked good. McMillian and Williams looked better. They’re running around again looking more like themselves,” Bailey said.
The Scots held three practices last week that lasted about 90 minutes each. That’s about 50 minutes shorter than usual, Bailey said.
This week was a return to the normal schedule as the Scots started getting ready for their last non-conference game. Goldsboro, a Class 2A school, runs several different defensive packages, but will likely key in on Scotland’s main threat — Jaylend Ratliffe.
“On some films Goldsboro spreads out and invites you to run and other times they crowd the box and say throw it if you can. I expect them to crowd the box against us and make us throw the football based on what they’ll see on film,” Bailey said. “But Ratliffe is more than capable of doing that. We always go into a game with a if they do that, we do this philosophy.”
Returning to their home stadium will be a welcome change of pace for the Scots after back-to-back road trips to schools nearly two hours away.
“It’ll be nice to play in front of home crowd. But of course everywhere we go it feels like a home crowd because we travel so well,” Bailey said. “It will be nice to stay home and not have to take a bus and get home at 1 a.m.”