LAURINBURG — Nearly five years ago, Scotland last tasted defeat in a Southeastern Conference contest, falling 31-21 to rival Richmond Senior in Rockingham.
20 games and four straight SEC championships later, the Scots enter this year’s conference season as the prohibitive favorite to win their fifth title in a row and fourth under head coach Richard Bailey. Former coach Chip Williams helped start the streak in his final season when the Scots captured SEC and 4A state championships in 2011.
Scotland has yet to lose a conference game since Bailey took over in 2012, and his program will look to extend that run to 25 consecutive wins by season’s end.
The Scots enter the conference schedule playing their best football of the season — they have defeated New Hanover and Panther Creek by a combined score of 97-41 the past two weeks. Before that, Scotland survived close calls against Marlboro County and Jack Britt but as Bailey said following the victory against the Buccaneers, “you are what your record says you are.”
And halfway through the season, Scotland is a perfect 6-0.
The Scots’ quest for their fifth SEC title in as many years begins next Friday in Pembroke against Purnell Swett.
The Rams (1-5) are led by first-year coach Jon Sherman, who took over the team in the offseason after longtime coach Mark Heil resigned. Purnell Swett’s only win this season came against county rival South Robeson, a 1A school, on the road 21-8.
In their meeting last season at Pate Stadium, Scotland overcame a slow start where it trailed 7-3 at one point in the first quarter to roll to a 44-10 win. The Scots racked up 344 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in the victory as then-freshman Zamir White had the first 100-plus yard outing of his high school career. He rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
The following week, Scotland will welcome to Pinecrest to Laurinburg on Oct. 16 for perhaps the most important game of the SEC season. The Patriots, coached by Chris Metzger, are 6-0 and seeking retribution for last year’s heartbreaking 29-22 defeat to the Scots in Southern Pines.
Pinecrest led 22-15 at one point in the fourth quarter only to see Scotland tie the game, then win it after White rushed for a 46-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-7 with 1:20 remaining. It was only one of two regular season losses for the Patriots, who were also defeated by Richmond later in the year.
Scotland will host its second straight home game Oct. 23 against Hoke. Head coach Tom Paris and his Bucks (0-6) are the only winless team in the conference, and have lost every game by double-digits.
The Scots cruised to a 43-9 win in Raeford when these two teams last met, rushing for over 200 yards while holding the Bucks to 65 passing yards and keeping all-SEC running back Jacob Rushing in check.
Scotland is set to travel to Lumberton on Oct. 30 to play the Pirates (3-3). Mike Setzer’s team is the only other program in the SEC outside of Scotland, Pinecrest and Richmond to not have a losing record.
The Pirates have won two straight since starting 1-3, a 180 from last season when they began the year 3-0 before losing six of their final eight games. One of those defeats came at the hands of the Scots, who scored 49 first half points en route to a 49-14 thrashing in Laurinburg. Then-senior Quadrin Williams rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries, and also had a 25-yard touchdown catch.
As is tradition in arguably North Carolina’s top football rivalry, Scotland plays Richmond to wrap up the season Nov. 6. The Raiders are 5-1 under new coach Mike Castellano and just added an impressive win to their résumé Monday, defeating Dudley 14-12 in Greensboro.
In last year’s meeting, Scotland nursed a 13-6 halftime lead before blowing the game open in the second half en route to a 34-13 win in Rockingham. The victory was the programs’ fourth straight against its rivals to the west. The Scots rushed for 329 yards, and punctuated the victory with a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that burned nine minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.