LAURINBURG — Now the games really matter. Not that the first seven weeks of the high school football season didn’t, but conference play is where seasons are decided.
The Southeastern Conference schools begin their conference games tonight, and Scotland is starting with Purnell Swett on the road. Scotland coach Richard Bailey said the primary goal all season has been to win the conference, and tonight’s game is the first step.
“I like to say we’re into the T-shirt games now. We want to win a conference championship T-shirt first and foremost,” Bailey said. “That’s the first goal and we’ll go from there.”
Of course, the Scots have loftier goals than just winning the conference. They are the No. 2 team in the state of North Carolina and are considered one of the favorites to win the Class 4A state championship. Bailey said he thinks the team that ends up winning the conference this season will have to run the table in conference play.
“To win the conference championship you’re going to have to be undefeated in the conference. I don’t think a one-loss team is winning the conference championship,” Bailey said. “All we can ask for is that it comes down to us and Richmond at the end and we’ll be playing them for it.”
Purnell Swett is 2-4 this season, although they played a tough non-conference slate. Their opponents from the first six games have a combined record of 23-15. The Rams like to run a variety of offensive plays, whether it’s running or passing. On the defensive side of things they play with four defensive linemen.
Running back Quadrin Williams is expected to play the majority of snaps in the backfield for Scotland after Tre Thomas suffered a season-ending injury last week. Josh McPhatter, who was expected to be the starter going into the season, is still not fully recovered from an ankle injury he sustained in the first game of the year. If Williams is able to, he will probably play for most of the game, Bailey said.
Purnell Swett is coming into tonight’s game after a week off, so they have had two weeks to prepare for Scotland.
Quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe will likely determine how well Scotland plays, just as the dual-threat junior has done in every game this season. Ratliffe prefers to run the ball, as he has rushed 96 times for 790 yards and nine touchdowns this season. However, he can throw just as well if opposing defenses crowd the box and try to limit his mobility. He has completed 59 percent of his passes this season for nine touchdowns.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.