The Fighting Scots have a simple approach going forward with the 2012 football season: No game is more important than the other, and no moment is too big.
But after surrendering their first loss in over a year to New Hanover last week, Scotland’s players and coaches noticed the post-game celebration that the Wildcats enjoyed. And right then, it became apparent that the Fighting Scots will be more than just a game to the teams they face each week.
“New Hanover treated their win over us like it was the Superbowl,” said Scotland head coach Richard Bailey. “My guys better figure it out that every team playing us wants to say they beat the defending state champions.”
As guests arrived at the Pate Stadium field house Tuesday night for the Fighting Scots’ “Tuesday Tailgate” dinner event, they were greeted by footage of Scotland’s week 3 opponent airing on a projection screen. It was the Marlboro County Bulldogs out of Bennettsville, S.C., a team and community that is immediately familiar to any lifelong Scotland County resident.
“I’m new to this area and the Scotland/Marlboro County rivalry in general,” understand there’s a lot of community ties between the two teams, but I’ve just looked at what the Bulldogs have done this season as an indicator of the team we’ll be seeing Friday. They’re a really good football team.”
The region 4-AAA Bulldogs have given the Fighting Scots plenty to think about if their first two games of the season are any indication.
Facing off against Chesterfield and Cheraw, Marlboro County has appeared dominant in the early season, outscoring both opponents by a combined score of 85-0. Both teams the Bulldogs faced were playoff contenders last year, with the Chesterfield Rams in particular compiling an 11-2 record in the 2011-12 season en route to a third-round playoff exit. The Rams suffered their first regular-season shutout since 2005 at the hands of the Bulldogs.
And undoubtedly, the Bulldogs are looking for revenge after their game against the Fighting Scots last season, a 42-7 blowout that sparked a three-game skid for Marlboro County.
Looking at the Bulldogs’ 76-player roster that features several returning players, Bailey sees a Marlboro County team that utilizes simplicity to their advantage.
“Marlboro County is pretty predictable when it comes to running the football,” Bailey said. “But then again, I knew what the Scots were going to run on us last year at Jack Britt and I still couldn’t stop it. The Bulldogs are a very athletic group that want to beat you with their Jimmy’s and Joe’s rather than x’s and o’s .”
Scotland is anticipating the Bulldogs to implement a spread-offense featuring several 2x2 and 3x1 formations that gives their skill-position players the opportunity to make plays.
First-year starting quarterback Xavier Adams has shined for Marlboro County thus far, including a 159 yard, two touchdown performance against the Rams in week 1. And after missing seven weeks last season due to a car crash, senior running back Reggie Bright has looked every bit the three-down workhorse and has emerged as the team’s leading ball-carrier.
As for Scotland, this past week’s preparation has centered around moving past their loss to New Hanover and righting the ship against a Marlboro County team looking to make a statement this week.
“Last week’s loss wasn’t fatal,” Bailey said. “Everything we did wrong last Friday night we can fix moving ahead with our season. That being said, I haven’t lost two consecutive games since 2005 and I want to continue that streak.”