LAURINBURG —Tonight’s matchup at Pate Stadium will not be the typical homecoming game for Scotland, who is hosting the Pinecrest Patriots in a showdown between two 7-0 football teams.
Pinecrest is 7-0 for the first time since 1982 and will be attempting to beat Scotland for the first time since winning in Laurinburg 31-13 in the 2009 season. The Patriots started getting attention after a 45-28 win over Douglas Byrd in the second week of the season. They jumped out to an early lead with a little trickery in that game, doing a double-pass trick play on their first play from scrimmage and then recovering an onside kick immediately after the touchdown.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said he expects Pinecrest will try similar things in tonight’s game.
“I would expect them to pull out all the stops, especially early. We have to weather the crazy stuff early,” Bailey said. “By the same token we’ve been pretty good about scoring on our first drive, even against Marlboro. We’ve scored on every opening drive this season. So we need to do that again. It’s always nice to play from ahead.”
The Marlboro game was the only close contest the Scots have played in this season, but they were still able to go down the field and score on their opening drive. Pinecrest is an option-run team, so if they fall behind by more than a touchdown early it might be difficult for them to find their way back.
Pinecrest has coasted through the last four games, scoring over 50 points each time, although those four teams have won a combined two games. However, Bailey said the fact that Pinecrest won the games by such large margins shows that they are a good team.
“Some people have questioned their schedule, but they’ve beaten the teams they’ve played really bad. They haven’t played a great schedule but it’s not like they’re beating them 6-0. They’re beating them 56-0. They’re beating bad teams really bad, and that’s a sign they’re doing things well,” Bailey said.
Pinecrest normally lines up in a split back formation, and rotates three running backs into the game. Josh McCoy is the leading rusher for the Patriots, but Joe Anderson and Troy Roper also rack up significant numbers. All three are sophomores. The quarterback — Christian Ledbetter — is a sophomore as well. The backs like to line up close to Ledbetter so they can get the ball and start running quickly.
Scotland’s running game will get a boost now that senior back Josh McPhatter is healthy. Bailey said McPhatter, who has been recovering from a week one ankle injury, has done well in practice this week and should be ready to start tonight.
“He looked really good this week in practice, the best he’s looked since before the South View game,” Bailey said. “Not playing him last week was a good thing for us for the long term. Quadrin Williams has done great so we’re going to continue to play him, but Josh being back healthy will help because he’s a power guy and a speed guy, he gives you both dimensions.”
McPhatter carried the ball a few times against Goldsboro two weeks ago but was replaced by Tre Thomas after the opening drive. McPhatter has only rushed 11 times for 77 yards this season, although two of those runs were for a touchdown.
Bailey said Pinecrest will be the toughest defensive team he has played this season. The Patriots play a 3-4 defense and are strongest in the middle, with their linemen and linebackers.
“They’re very sound fundamentally on defense and play within their scheme,” Bailey said.
Likewise, the Patriots will face their toughest defense of the season. Scotland’s defensive line has dominated opponents all year, so if Pinecrest wants to leave Laurinburg as the only undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference they will have to win the battles at the line of scrimmage and create holes for their three backs to run through.