LAURINBURG — Scotland’s defense outscored the offense Friday as the Scots dominated their rivals from Richmond, capping off an undefeated regular season with a 49-14 and a conference championship.
The Scotland defense forced seven turnovers and scored 28 points to turn what was a close game at halftime into a blowout.
The Scots led 14-7 after the first half, but ran away with it over the final two quarters. On back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter linebacker KJ Leggett scooped up fumbles and ran them back for touchdowns, on runs of 20- and 23-yards. Brandon McMillian scored on a 20-yard interception returned to the end zone in the third quarter, and Avery Simmons returned a fumbled ball 42-yards in the first half that put the Scots up 14-7.
Scotland’s defense was going against a Richmond side that was without starting quarterback Brent Flowers. He was knocked out of last week’s game against Pinecrest with an injury, so Diquon Cox took his place. He lead his team down the field for a touchdown on their first drive, but was not able to find the end zone again. Richmond’s other touchdown was a kickoff returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Richmond’s triple-option offense looked like it might give the Scots problems after the opening drive, but the defense was able to shut it down by staying disciplined, defensive coordinator Sean Burnett said.
“Everybody has to be disciplined and do their assignment,” Burnett said. “Richmond does a great job with that option. The dive, quarterback and pitch have to be accounted for on every play.”
Simmons, who knocked down a couple pass attempts at the line in addition to his touchdown, said the defensive coaches talked all week about the various options the Raiders could take.
“It got us ready and prepared for the game, that’s all they talked about this week,” Simmons said.
He said when he scooped up the loose ball in the second quarter and saw an open field in front of him, he had no doubts that he would score.
“I saw grass and I knew it was over. I wanted to set the tone for the defensive line, that’s all I wanted to do. It’s just a blessing,” Simmons said.
The win was Scotland’s third consecutive over their rivals after going winless in the series for 17 years. It also made Scotland (11-0, 5-0) the Southeastern Conference champions.
Coach Richard Bailey said the offense did not play its best game, but the defense was able to help it out.
“That’s what’s being a team is all about … An undefeated conference championship is what we set out for in August and now our next goal is a state championship,” Bailey said.
Quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe rushed for a 55-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage to open the scoring. He also scored on a 3-yard run in the second half. Trejon Monley added a 32-yard rushing touchdown for the offense’s other score.
In the first half, Bailey said, Scotland was missing a few tackles and making mistakes, but was able to pull away after making some adjustments.
“Second half we eliminated that and made some turnovers. Unbelievable defense. On offense we just weren’t firing on all cylinders. We had a hard time throwing the ball tonight,” Bailey said. “Our best offense was our defense. I’m very proud of those guys. Coach Burnett and our defensive staff just did a great job tonight.”
Scotland’s defense nearly had five touchdowns. Monley intercepted a ball in the third quarter and lept into the end zone, but the officials ruled that he lost the ball before crossing the plane, giving the Raiders the ball back on the 20-yard line. That turned out not to make much of a differnce, however, as McMillian’s interception came just a few plays later.