A new No. 1 headlines this week’s edition of my Southeastern Conference Power Rankings.
I almost slotted Pinecrest in the top spot last week, but decided against it given Scotland’s dominance of the conference in recent years. But these rankings are based on a team’s merits this season, and after the Patriots’ latest impressive win, I could no longer justify ranking them at No. 2.
It’s not so much what the Scots haven’t done as it is what the Patriots have accomplished. If both teams can remain undefeated for the next month, the Oct. 16 matchup between Scotland and Pinecrest in Laurinburg should be one of the marquee games of the North Carolina high school football 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 5.
1. Pinecrest (4-0)
There is a lot of football left to be played, but for now, the Patriots appear to be the team to beat in the SEC after their 56-42 home win against Woodberry Forest a week ago.
The two teams combined for video game-like numbers, but in the end, Christian Ledbetter and the Patriots pulled away from the visitors from Virginia in the fourth quarter. The senior signal caller completed 8 of 11 passes for 110 yards and rushed 23 times for 166 yards and five touchdowns.
The win was particularly impressive because the Patriots’ defense, which is the strength of their team, gave up 480 passing yards to Tigers quarterback Lindell Stone. Despite not have its A-game on that side of the ball, Pinecrest still found a way to win a game against one of the premier programs in Virginia.
Up next for Pinecrest: a trip to Sanford to take on Southern Lee (2-1). The Cavaliers were defeated in Week 4 by Ozen, a school from Texas, 54-21.
Prediction: Pinecrest 52, Southern Lee 7
2. Scotland (4-0)
For the second straight week, the Scots did just enough to win a close, defensive battle. Richard Bailey’s current team defeated his former school, Jack Britt, 14-6 after the Scots forced a turnover on downs on the Buccaneers’ final possession.
After scoring 89 points in its first two games, Scotland has put up just 35 in its last two contests. Jack Britt contained star tailback Zamir White for the most part, holding him to 106 yards, which coming into the game was about 150 yards below his average.
The Scots offense did welcome back starting quarterback Dashaun Ferguson, who missed the first three games of the season with a torn PCL in his left knee. The senior admitted after Friday’s win that he is still working his way back from the injury. Now that he has a week of practice under his belt, I expect him to play well. Ferguson arguably played his best game of the season last year against New Hanover, racking up over 250 yards of offense and four touchdowns.
Up next for Scotland: a road game at the aforementioned Wildcats. New Hanover (2-1) lost 42-0 to Havelock in its last game Sept. 4.
Prediction: Scotland 41, New Hanover 15
3. Richmond (3-1)
News of the Raiders’ 32-13 home loss against Butler last week was quickly shuffled under the rug when reports broke Sunday that head coach Mike Castellano was arrested Saturday night on an impaired driving charge.
The saga appears to have reached its conclusion as the Richmond County Schools system handed down a one-week suspension for Castellano, who’ll miss tonight’s game at South View. Offensive coordinator Steve Burdeau will serve in his stead as the Raiders look to put the events of the past week behind them.
Richmond trailed 32-0 at halftime in the loss to the Bulldogs, in large part due to critical turnovers and mistakes by the offense. The defense played better than the score indicated, and linebacker Devon Hunt continued his all-SEC caliber campaign with 13 tackles in the defeat.
Up next for Richmond: the trek to Hope Mills to play the Tigers. South View (2-2) defeated Hoke 48-36 in Raeford last week.
Prediction: Richmond 45, South View 19
4. Lumberton (1-3)
Now comes the part of the rankings where you could interchange any of these three teams and it would not really matter — to be frank, the bottom tier of the SEC has been dreadful thus far this season. Lumberton, Purnell Swett and Hoke are a combined 2-10.
The Pirates were throttled by Seventy-First, who, ironically, put up 71 points in the 71-21 victory. By the way, the Falcons didn’t even score in the fourth quarter. Seventy-First ran for 430 yards and averaged 13 yards per carry while holding the Pirates 30 yards on 16 carries.
Lumberton freshman quarterback Braylon Grice was one of the few bright spots for the Pirates, however, completing 11 of 19 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next for Lumberton: a home against Overhills (3-1). The Jaguars beat Harnett Central 56-6 in their last contest.
Prediction: Overhills 34, Lumberton 28
5. Purnell Swett (1-3)
Coming off its first win of the season at South Robeson the previous week, the Rams entered last Friday’s game against Westover with a bit of momentum.
But despite the return of starting quarterback Lucas Oxendine from injury, Purnell Swett was trounced by the visiting Wolverines 40-19. Westover scored 28 unanswered points in the first half and tallied 444 rushing yards in the win.
Oxendine tossed two touchdown passes in his return, throwing an 11-yard touchdown McKinley Strickland and a 23-yard score to Kendrick Jeffery, but he was also intercepted twice by Westover defensive back Nylan Sims.
Up next for Purnell Swett: a road game at Jack Britt (3-1). The Buccaneers were defeated by Scotland 14-6 in Week 4.
Prediction: Jack Britt 48, Purnell Swett 6
6. Hoke (0-4)
The Bucks came close to finally notching its first win of the season last week against South View, but came up short when quarterback Kevin Thorpe fumbled the ball and Tiger linebacker Elijah Jones returned it for a 61-yard touchdown to effectively end the game.
Thorpe had a solid game up to that point, completing 11 of 23 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Jacob Rushing had another 100-yard game, gaining 100 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Hoke’s defense only allowed South View quarterback Donovan Brewington to complete 41 percent of his passes, but the freshman still racked up 337 yards and four touchdowns through the air while Keyonis Hopkins rushed for 94 yards and a score on the ground.
Up next for Hoke: a road game in Fayetteville to battle E.E. Smith (3-1). The Golden Bulls trampled Douglas Byrd 54-0 last week.
Prediction: E.E. Smith 45, Hoke 21