LAURINBURG — Early-season injuries that have plagued the Scotland football team seem to be on the mend.
The Scots enter tonight’s rivalry game against Marlboro the healthiest they have been all season, and head coach Richard Bailey said after Thursday’s practice the return of starters on both sides of the ball has resulted in a smoother week of preparation.
Receiver Willie Douglas will see his first action after sitting out the first two contests with a badly sprained ankle he injured in a Scotland scrimmage last month. Douglas caught 29 passes for 442 yards and five touchdowns last season, and boosts a receiving corps led by Randy Leak.
“Certain things look better,” Bailey said about this week’s practice. “You look better throwing the ball with your No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts both in there.”
Linebacker Mitchell Smith and defensive lineman Octavis McLaurin are also expected to play after suffering minor knee injuries in the Scots’ 42-13 victory over Independence in Charlotte last week.
One player who will not return to the huddle is starting quarterback Dashaun Ferguson. Ferguson continues to nurse a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but made progress in his rehab. Bailey said Ferguson will likely return to the lineup in another week or two.
“Dashaun is progressing,” he said. “He looks better. He’s been involved at about half-speed in drills. We haven’t had him in any team settings, but just individual stuff and throwing periods, so he’s getting there.”
The Scots have been without their senior signal caller, but the offense has hummed with backup Sergio Gibson under center. Gibson, a junior, made his first career varsity start in the season-opening win over South View and played well, completing 6 of 10 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns. He followed that performance with a steady effort against Independence, going 9 for 11 with 90 yards.
“Sergio has come a long way,” Bailey said. “He’s improved every week. He’s getting more and more reps, he’s gaining more and more confidence, practice goes a lot more fluid now. He’s taken ownership of that starting role.”
It’s helped Gibson that he shares the same backfield with running back Zamir White, who has rushed 47 times for 544 yards and nine touchdowns in Scotland’s first two games. The sophomore star will be the focal point of opposing defenses all season, and Bailey said Marlboro has a formidable unit that features athletic players in the trenches.
“Defensively, they’re an aggressive group,” he said. “Not real big but they have some tall defensive ends, which is something I worry about a little bit since my quarterback is about 5-8.”
The Bulldogs (1-0) feature an offense helmed by quarterback Jacob Evers. The 6-6 junior was 12 of 28 for 142 yards and tossed one touchdown pass in Marlboro’s 27-19 victory over North Brunswick.
“They throw it a lot — they have a big, tall quarterback who is a 6-6 kid,” Bailey said. “He’s not a great runner, just enough to keep you honest, but he throws the ball well. They don’t play with a tight end, it’s all spread sets. They have a quick running back and couple of good wide receivers and their offensive line is huge.”
Scotland travels to Bennettsville with a 2-0 record, and if Bailey’s squad hopes to stay undefeated, they’ll have to beat a team seeking revenge for 51-13 loss at Pate Stadium last year.
“I feel good about the game and feel coming good off the Independence win that we have some confidence,” Bailey said.
Scotland JV team wins again
LAURINBURG — The Scotland junior varsity football team improved to 3-0 this season after defeating Marlboro 30-0 at home Thursday night.
The Scots defeated South View on the road to begin the year, and downed Independence and the Bulldogs the past two weeks at Pate Stadium. They will return to action next week on the road against Jack Britt.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.