LAURINBURG — Emotions will always run high for Scotland coach Richard Bailey when he toes the sideline opposite his former team, the Jack Britt Buccaneers.
For the fourth straight season, Bailey will battle the program he coached at for more than 12 seasons and led to more than 100 wins and three state championship appearances.
Scotland is 3-0 against Jack Britt during Bailey’s tenure and the school has won four straight meetings dating back to 2011, including a tough 20-14 victory in Hope Mills last season, but he knows tonight’s matchup at Pate Stadium will be a slugfest.
“They are a dangerous football team,” Bailey said. “Defensively, they have probably four or five impact returning players from last year.”
The Buccaneers have only allowed 20 points in their first three games, which includes a 63-6 shellacking of Southeastern Conference member Hoke. Jack Britt defeated Terry Sanford 22-14 in its most recent contest.
Cormega Copening began the season as the starting quarterback for the Bucs, but he was suspended indefinitely from the team after one game, opening the door for last year’s starter Bryan Bryant. The 6-2 senior totaled 25 touchdowns in 2014, including 169-yard rushing performance against Scotland, and has started this season off strong throwing for 291 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. He has also gained 151 yards on the ground.
“The thing is they throw the ball vertically,” Bailey said. “They’re not a fancy passing game, when they throw it, it’s bombs and they got some guys, (Keshawn Wynn) and (Alphonzo Williams) that are very good wide receivers. You can’t double cover both of them, so you better hope you can find a way to pass rush.”
Scotland is coming off a physical 21-20 win at rival Marlboro last week in a game that was “more important to their kids than our kids,” according to Bailey, and it played out that way on the field. The Bulldogs were a missed extra point away from potentially tying the game and forcing overtime, and Bailey said he hopes that were serve as a wake-up call to his players.
“We’re everybody’s Super Bowl, we better be ready to play,” Bailey said. “Like we found out last week, if we don’t play well and somebody has a good night, it doesn’t take a lot to swing a game. We have to be ready because they’re going to be sky high.”
The Scotland offense should get a boost tonight as starting quarterback Dashaun Ferguson is expected to return to the lineup after missing the first three games with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Ferguson’s status as the starter is a game-time decision, though Bailey said he does expect his senior signal caller to play. Sergio Gibson has managed the offense admirably in Ferguson’s absence, completing 62 percent of his passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
Ferguson, who was an all-SEC performer last season, should provide a boost to an offense that averaged 37 points per game without him in the lineup. In 2014, he racked up 22 total touchdowns while throwing for 1,160 yards and running for 771 more.
“(Ferguson) can press the ball down field a little better and that will help us stretch it some,” Bailey said.
Scotland set to debut scoreboard
Scotland’s video scoreboard will make its debut tonight at Pate Stadium when the Scots take the field against the Buccaneers. Construction of the 18-by-13 state-of-the-art scoreboard began in August, and gameday goers will have the chance to check out publicly for the first time.
“It’s been a lot of work and it’s good to finally see the fruits of the labor,” said Scotland County Athletic Booster club president Scott Cole. “This community has been great, all these sponsors backing the project. It’s been a win-win for all involved and I think it’s going to be a great addition to Friday nights and add to the atmosphere.”
Cole said local businesses and the community have pledged more than $250,000 to the scoreboard, which will generate money annually to help fund projects at the high school and middle schools. Though the videoboard is funded by the booster club, the school system has final say on where monies raised by the club will be spent.
“It’s exciting, it really is. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it,” Bailey said. “It is pretty impressive for a high school scoreboard and we’re the only high school in the state of North Carolina that has one like it. It says a lot about our program.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.