LAURINBURG — As the calendar nears August and the Scotland football team enters the final stretch of summer practices, coach Richard Bailey and his staff are preparing for a program first.
On Friday night, the school will welcome fans to Pate Stadium for a “Midnight Madness” event scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. The practice, which will conclude around 11:45, will feature varsity and returning players and is open to the public.
The following Saturday morning, the Scots will host the first official day of practice from 8 a.m. to 10:30. It is mandatory for all players who hope to make the team, and every athlete must have an updated physical.
Scotland took the field again this week after enjoying a North Carolina High School Athletic Association-mandated dead period for much of last week. The Scots did travel to nearby St. Andrews University for a camp last Friday and Saturday, and Bailey mentioned he thought the change of scenery was a positive experience for his team.
“The camp went well when we went to St. Andrews, I thought we got a lot done,” Bailey said. “Offensively and defensively I saw a lot of good things.”
The Scots are scheduled to practice all next week, which culminates with the team’s kickoff cookout on Aug. 8. Scotland then hosts Northern Durham for a scrimmage on Aug. 12 before traveling to Raleigh to participate in the HighSchoolOT.com Jamboree on Aug 15.
Northern Durham will square off with Enloe at noon to begin the jamboree, and five other games are set to take place before Scotland battles Millbrook at 7:30 p.m.
Scotland is slotted in the primetime matchup at the jamboree, a fitting distinction given the positive news surrounding the program and a couple of its players this offseason.
Rising sophomore Zamir White was invited this week to the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is considered one of the top high school football showcases in the country. The game is held in San Antonio, Texas which White will participate in when he is a senior.
The accolades and growing national attention regarding White continues to grow, as the website 247Sports.com is expected to list White as one of its top ten 2018 players when it releases its national recruiting rankings in the near future.
The bruising tailback rushed for 1,231 yards and 18 touchdowns last year while splitting carries with then-senior Quadrin Williams, and has already received scholarship offers from the likes of Florida State, Ohio State, Georgia and Wisconsin.
Another player that has garnered headlines this summer is senior linebacker Jonathan Smith, who is still expected to publicize his college decision at the start of the season, though he, his family and the school are still determining how the announcement will be made.
Smith won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season after recording 156 tackles, 22 for loss, four sacks and an interception. Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech are all in the running for the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder.
Regarding the overall play by his team this summer, Bailey said he likes the progress the secondary has made, and cited the offensive line as another unit that continues to improve. He also mentioned the backup tailback position as one that has pleasantly surprised him.
“I think Tyquan McNealy has had a good spring,” Bailey said. “Obviously Zamir is going to tote the ball the majority of the time, but he’s done a good job. I think he can get some carries here and there and rest Zamir and not be a huge fall off.”
Bailey will rely on incumbent senior starting quarterback Dashaun Ferguson to lead the Scots from under center, and mentioned he has made great strides since he first took over for the injured Jaylend Ratliffe last fall.
“Fergy wouldn’t have gotten any reps last year, so now I’m getting a quarterback back who played an entire year,” Bailey said.
Bailey cited one play in Tuesday’s practice that reflects just how far the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder has come since he first took over the reins of the offense nearly one year ago.
“I called a bad play, and it’s a play that an experienced quarterback knows I don’t meant to call it that way,” Bailey said. “Last year, he would have tried to run it the wrong way and just tried to do it, today, he looked at me said, hey, you mean this? He corrected me, and that’s because he played 14 games last year. He knows more of what we want.”
The Scotland coaching staff feels good about the team that is set to take the field for the regular season opener on Aug. 21 against South View, and Bailey said he’s been pleased with the passion and dedication his players have shown throughout June and July.
“This is probably as strong and a very committed group as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.