Since the day he accepted the Scotland head football coaching position, Richard Bailey has echoed nothing but fond memories regarding his days at Jack Britt High School and the football program he built from scratch.
But the day Bailey became the coach of the Fighting Scots, fans of both Scotland and Jack Britt undoubtedly marked a matchup on their calendar as one of the most anticipated games of the 2012 season.
And as the Scots prepare for their first regular season road trip, the day has finally come. On Friday night, Scotland will battle Jack Britt as Bailey revisits his old stomping grounds for the first time as a member of the Fighting Scots.
“I’m a relationship guy,” Bailey said. “I love winning football games, but I love building relations with my staff and students more so there will be a lot of emotions as I see former players and faculty. But at the end of the day, it’s a non-conference football game that will give my guys a chance to get better for when we try to achieve our goal of winning a (SEC) conference championship.”
The Buccaneers were a force to be reckoned with last season under Bailey, as the 4-3 defense implemented by their former coach caught fire down the stretch en route to the 2011-12 state 4-A semi-finals. Jack Britt would lose to Garner-Magnet 34-27 in what turned out to be Bailey’s final bow as the Buccaneers’ head coach.
Upon becoming the head coach of the Fighting Scots, Bailey said that the Buccaneers team he left behind was loaded with state championship caliber talent heading into the 2012 season.
“Jack Britt is a top-three team in North Carolina,” Bailey said. “They are set to win a lot right now, and my ultimate goal as the Fighting Scots’ head coach is to build this team into a perennial top-10 team in the state like the Buccaneers have been for the past seven or eight years.”
The Buccaneers will be without a couple key playmakers from last season, including Jack Britt’s all-time leading tackler Marquis McMillian who graduated this past May. But nonetheless, Jack Britt appears poised to deliver on their pre-season promise if the first few weeks of this season are any indication.
Led by senior quarterback Mark McRae, the Buccaneers offense has proven explosive at times during Jack Britt’s 3-0 start to the season, combining a dual-threat running back system with a penchant for throwing the deep ball to keep opposing defenses honest.
The backfield tandem of Eric Carter and Marquice Foshee has provided matchup nightmares for team this season, two of which come from the SEC conference (Pinecrest and Lumberton). The Buccaneers have outscored opponents 103-22 over the course of the first three weeks, including a 27-0 blanking of the Pirates.
“They are a ground-and-pound type team that will throw deep on you the minute you stack eight men at the line,” Bailey said.
However, one thing working in the Scots’ favor will be the absence of Jack Britt leading deep threat and future NC State Wolfpack wide receiver Jalen McDaniel, who is serving the second of a two-game suspension for violating team rules. McDaniel scored a receiving touchdown in both games he’s played in, including a two-catch, 69 yard performance against Lumberton in week 2.
Though the Buccaneers introduced a slew of new coaching faces in the off-season led by new head coach Brian Rimpf, their game plan has remained largely the same on both sides of the ball according to the Fayetteville Observer.
Defensively, all signs point to Jack Britt being as stout as ever. In addition to shutting out Lumberton, the Buccaneers also held Southern-Durham to a single touchdown and surrendered most of their season-high 15 points against Pinecrest in the closing minutes of that game. The unit is anchored by lineman Stephen Huff and linebacker Jordan Williams, two seniors that were both Mid-South all-conference selections last season.
One constant amongst Jack Britt’s offense and defense? Their size.
“They look like a division II college football team on their offensive and defensive line,” Bailey said. “Several guys are more than six foot and 285+ pounds, and on defense they literally rotate eight or nine guys onto the line that are all as big as one another.”
Analyzing his current Fighting Scots’ football team, Bailey has said repeatedly in past months that his team is in a “reloading phase” as they continue building towards the future.
But one thing is for certain: Regardless of the emotions surrounding the game, a win against arguably one of the top teams in North Carolina would go a long ways in validating this year’s Scotland squad as a team ready to contend right away.
“I always challenge my guys to be special and do special things,” Bailey said. “If won this game, it would be the first time in Scotland history that the Scots beat Jack Britt on their field, and also the first time Scotland beat the Buccaneers in consecutive seasons. But more importantly, I think it would tell the rest of the state that we are a legit contender for a state championship again.”