By Logan Martinez
Three weeks have already gone by in the North Carolina high school football season — hard to believe we’re already halfway to the conference season.
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 4.
1. Scotland (3-0)
The Scots survived a major scare last week in Bennettsville, defeating rival Marlboro 21-20 thanks in large part to a missed extra point by Bulldogs kicker Hunter Tindal with 1:39 remaining in the contest.
Marlboro was able to get the ball back at its own 20-yard line with 52 seconds remaining, but only managed to reach midfield before Scotland linebacker Jonathan Smith intercepted a Jacob Evers pass in the red zone as time expired.
Up next for Scotland: its first home game since Week 1, as the Scots host coach Richard Bailey’s former team Jack Britt (3-0). The Buccaneers beat Terry Sanford 22-14 last Friday.
Prediction: Scotland 27, Jack Britt 21
2. Pinecrest (3-0)
The Patriots have arguably been the most impressive team in the SEC thus far this season, and they reinforced that notion in last week’s impressive 49-14 win against Cuthbertson in Monroe.
Cuthbertson fields one of the better 3A programs in the state, but Pinecrest blew open the game early thanks to all-SEC quarterback Christian Ledbetter. The senior signal caller completed 4 of 5 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 15 times for 107 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns.
Up next for Pinecrest: a home game against Woodberry Forest (Va.) (1-0). The Tigers are among the top teams in Virginia and opened their season with a 37-18 win over Bishop McNamara.
Prediction: Pinecrest 31, Woodberry Forest 20
3. Richmond (3-0)
The Raiders finally found their ground game against Douglas Byrd after struggling to run the ball in their first two contests. Richmond totaled 238 yards on 19 carries in a 55-12 home win against the Eagles.
Jayvon Boyer led all rushers with 97 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and quarterback Leon Zeigler was efficient through the air, completing 10 of 14 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Up next for Richmond: its toughest test of the season — a home contest against Butler (2-1). The Bulldogs defeated Western Alamance 45-0 a week ago.
Prediction: Butler 31, Richmond 24
4. Lumberton (1-2)
The gap between the “Big Three” in the SEC and everyone else gets larger by the week, and no team in the bottom three seems fit to challenge those at the top. Despite losing 19-14 at home to South View a week ago, the Pirates remain No. 4 in my rankings.
The Pirates, in what has become an early-season trend, got off to a slow start before attempting a fourth-quarter rally that eventually fell short. The Tigers contained Lumberton’s Troy Mitchell, who only gained 64 yards on 18 carries — a far cry from his 242-yard performance against Pine Forest a week earlier.
Up next for Lumberton: a trip to Fayetteville to play Seventy-First (3-0). The Falcons rolled to a 55-26 against Hoke in their last game.
Prediction: Seventy-First 45, Lumberton 21
5. Purnell Swett (1-2)
Jon Sherman notched his first win as the Rams’ head coach after Purnell Swett defeated county rival South Robeson 21-8.
Quarterback Desmond Davis filled in for the injured Lucas Oxendine and performed well in his first start, tallying two rushing touchdowns and throwing a 42-yard score to Luke Brooks.
The Rams’ defense, which has been solid through the first three weeks, shut out the Mustangs until the fourth quarter.
Up next for Purnell Swett: a home game against Westover (1-2). The Wolverines fell 41-19 to E.E. Smith in Week 3.
Prediction: Westover 29, Purnell Swett 19
6. Hoke (0-3)
All-SEC running back Jacob Rushing continues to put up big numbers for the Bucks, but that hasn’t translated to wins for Tom Paris’ program.
Despite a 288-yard performance from the bruising senior, Hoke was trounced by Seventy-First 55-26 a week ago. Although the Bucks rushed for over 300 yards as a team, they allowed 427 to the Falcons.
Up next for Hoke: a home contest against South View (1-2).
Prediction: South View 34, Hoke 26
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.