Scots, Pats hold serve at the top

By Logan Martinez - [email protected]

Week 2 of the North Carolina high school football season is in the books, and if last Friday’s results are any indication, the top of the Southeastern Conference appears as loaded as ever.

Scotland and Pinecrest notched a pair of blowout wins over strong nonconference foes, solidifying their spots atop this week’s SEC Power Rankings.

Last week, I introduced game picks to these rankings and wound up with a 6-0 mark — beginner’s luck perhaps?

As always, if you don’t like where I slotted your team, we can have a fruitful discussion about it through a friendly phone call, email, or on social media — but leave the pitchforks at home, please.

Without further ado, here are my rankings entering Week 3.

1. Scotland (2-0)

The Scots added to Independence’s early-season woes, routing the Patriots 42-13 in Charlotte.

Star tailback Zamir White tore through the Patriots’ defense to the tune of 302 yards and six touchdowns on 31 carries, continuing his torrent start to the year. He even completed one pass for three yards while lining up in the Wildcat formation, a new offensive wrinkle Scotland had worked extensively on in practice before finally unleashing it last week.

Backup quarterback Sergio Gibson has filled in admirably for injured starter Dashaun Ferguson, and turned another steady performance against Independence, completing 9 of 11 passes for 90 yards. The defense, which gave up a couple of big plays against South View, rebounded to hold the Patriots’ offense in check for most of the game.

Up next for Scotland: a trip to Bennettsville, South Carolina to play rival Marlboro (1-0). The Bulldogs opened their season last week with a 27-19 win over North Brunswick.

Prediction: Scotland 35, Marlboro 13

2. Pinecrest (2-0)

If there was any doubt about the Patriots place near the top of these rankings, they squashed that notion with a dominating 44-0 win over Riverside at home.

Pinecrest limited the Pirates to less than 35 yards of total offense and never let the visitors advance past midfield. Chris Metzger’s team has outscored its opponents 95-8 in the first two games of the season.

The Patriots were also proficient when they had the ball, rushing for 244 yards as a team. Seven different players recorded at least two rushing attempts, and Juwain Roper led the bunch with 71 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Quarterback Christian Ledbetter passed for 86 yards and two touchdowns and didn’t commit a turnover.

Up next for Pinecrest: a tough neutral sit game in Monroe to battle Cuthbertson (2-0), one of the top 3A schools in the state, as part of the Union Power Cooperative Gridiron Clash. The Cavaliers routed Parkwood 42-7 in Week 2.

Prediction: Pinecrest 21, Cuthbertson 17

3. Richmond (2-0)

After a stellar season-opening win against Rocky River, the Raiders struggled in their road tilt against Anson last week. Richmond trailed 13-0 after the first quarter and 20-19 at halftime, but rallied in the second half and eventually pulled away for the 43-20 victory.

For the second straight game, Richmond struggled to pick up consistent yardage on the ground. The Raiders have failed to crack the 100-yard mark as a team in their first two games after leading the conference in rushing last season.

While the offense struggled at times, the defense pressured the Bearcats’ quarterback for much of the night and racked up six sacks. Linebacker Devon Hunt was all over the field, totaling 14 tackles (two for loss), forcing one fumble and recovering three more, including one that he fell on in the end zone.

Up next for Richmond: a home contest against Douglas Byrd (1-1). The Eagles defeated St. Pauls 20-8 on the road last week.

Prediction: Richmond 41, Douglas Byrd 7

4. Lumberton (1-1)

The Pirates became the first team outside of the “Big Three” to put a check in the win column, storming back from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat Pine Forest in Fayetteville 34-27.

Lumberton tallied 21 points in the final period, and tailback Troy Mitchell scored the go-ahead touchdown from 59 yards out with 30 seconds remaining to cap a 24-carry, 242-yard performance. The Trojans tied the contest with 1:10 remaining before Mitchell’s dramatic run.

Through two weeks, only Zamir White has rushed for more yards than Mitchell in the conference. Mitchell was productive while playing behind last season’s SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Josh Sheridan. As the bell cow of the Pirates’ rushing attack this year, he’s already totaled 350 yards and five touchdowns through Lumberton’s first two games.

The Pirates’ defense, which was much-maligned last year, forced five turnovers in the win over Pine Forest, and linebacker Bryce Swindell paced the team with 12 tackles.

Up next for Lumberton: its home opener, where the Pirates will host South View (0-2). The Tigers were defeated 30-19 by Gray’s Creek in their previous contest.

Prediction: Lumberton 35, South View 27

5. Hoke (0-2)

There’s no way around it — the Bucks’ 63-6 defeat to Jack Britt in Hope Mills last week was a major step backwards for second-year coach Tom Paris and his program. The game was over by halftime, as the Buccaneers led 42-6 at the break.

Jack Britt contained all-SEC running back Jacob Rushing, holding him to 82 yards on the ground, though the senior did notch the team’s only touchdown on a 55-yard reception from quarterback Kevin Thorpe.

As medicore as the offense performed, the Bucks’ defense was worse, allowing Jack Britt quarterback Bryan Bryant to complete 10 of 15 passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns. The dual-threat signal caller also shredded Hoke on the ground, rushing for 88 more. Jacquel Webster cracked the 100-yard mark, gaining 156 yards and two scores on 17 carries.

Up next for Hoke: a home tilt against Seventy-First (2-0). The Falcons won a 18-7 slugfest against Hoggard at home in Week 2.

Prediction: Seventy-First 49, Hoke 13

6. Purnell Swett (0-2)

The Rams have struggled mightily in Jon Sherman’s first two games as coach, and to make matters worse, they were on the wrong side of history in their latest defeat.

Purnell Swett lost its first-ever game to county rival Red Springs, losing 22-8 in a contest that was tied 8-8 at halftime.

Rams starting quarterback Luke Oxendine was forced to leave the game with concussion-like symptoms, hampering an already pedestrian offense given the output, or lack thereof, the unit has showcased in the first two games.

The Rams have been outscored 52-8 so far this season, and though the defense has played valiantly, Purnell Swett is going to need to find a spark plug on the other side of the ball if it hopes to escape the cellar of the SEC.

Up next for Purnell Swett: another county rivalry game, this time a road contest at South Robeson (0-2). The Mustangs were trounced 44-10 by Trask last Friday.

Prediction: Purnell Swett 23, South Robeson 10

By Logan Martinez

[email protected]

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