The ‘Big Three’ in the Southeastern Conference flexed its muscles against the bottom of the league last week, as Scotland, Pinecrest and Richmond won games against Lumberton, Purnell Swett and Hoke by a combined score of 150-15.
The top three programs appear to be the only schools from the conference that will qualify for the North Carolina state playoffs this season — the bottom trio all have losing records, and the Bucks remain winless.
While Richmond has a chance to bolster its record against Purnell Swett, Scotland and Pinecrest will clash tonight in the marquee SEC game of the season thus far. Hoke will look to get off the schneid when it plays Lumberton, a team the Bucks beat last season for its lone conference win.
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 9.
Scotland (7-0, 1-0)
The Scots steamrolled an opponent for the third straight week in their 57-8 win at Purnell Swett last Friday. Richard Bailey’s team dropped a 50-spot on the Rams by halftime while also holding the hosts scoreless.
Scotland executed its offensive and defensive game plans about as well as the coaching staff could hope in the SEC opener — the Scots racked up 216 yards on the ground and 120 through the air while holding the Rams to 141 total yards, most of which came after the first-team defense was taken off the field.
Zamir White upped his rushing touchdown total to 26 this season after reaching the end zone four more times on just six carries. He tallied 118 yards, including a 60-yard score on the opening play of the game. Quarterback Dashuan Ferguson didn’t have to do much, but he tossed two touchdowns in three completions.
Up next for Scotland: the much-anticipated showdown with Pinecrest in Pate Stadium.
Prediction: Scotland 28, Pinecrest 23
Pinecrest (7-0, 1-0)
The Patriots kept their undefeated record intact last Friday after sinking the Lumberton Pirates 42-7 on the road. Pinecrest led 35-0 at halftime and cruised the rest of the way.
Quarterback Christian Ledbetter threw a rare interception in the win, but did have three total touchdowns while passing for 81 yards and rushing for 83 more. The Patriots ran the ball at will, totaling 388 yards on 51 carries. Nine different rushers had at least one attempt on the ground, and Malyk Justice led the way with 124 yards and two scores on six carries.
It was another workmanlike effort for the Patriots who have yet to play a game that has been decided by less than 14 points. This is the third straight season that Pinecrest has been undefeated heading into its matchup with Scotland — can the Patriots finally breakthrough and defeat the Scots for the first time since 2009?
Richmond (6-1, 1-0)
The Raiders opened their SEC season with a resounding 51-0 victory in Raeford against Hoke a week ago.
There was no hangover effect from their big 14-12 win at Dudley two weeks before as the Raiders jumped out to a 13-0 advantage after the first quarter and led 41-0 at halftime.
Richmond showcased excellent balance on offense, totaling over 200 yards through the air and on the ground. Quarterback Leon Zeigler completed 13 of 18 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns and added a 50-yard rush. Seven different receivers caught at least one ball from the junior signal caller. Running back Quientel Goodwin, who was one of the top rushers in the SEC last season, appears back to form after gaining 114 yards and scoring his first three touchdowns of the year.
On defense, linebacker Devon Hunt continues his stellar season, racking up eight tackles and two sacks. Richmond intercepted two passes and also recovered two fumbles in the victory.
Up next for Richmond: its first home game since Sept. 11. The Raiders will host Purnell Swett.
Prediction: Richmond 52, Purnell Swett 7
Lumberton (3-4, 0-1)
The Pirates dipped below .500 after losing 42-7 to Pinecrest at home.
Lumberton has been inconsistent on offense all year —in its three wins the Pirates are averaging 35.7 points per game, and in their four losses they are averaging 15.5. Against the Patriots last Friday, Lumberton was held scoreless until the fourth quarter.
The defense, which has also turned in good performances mixed with several duds, could not stop Pinecrest on the ground as the Patriots averaged 7.6 yard per carry.
Freshman quarterback Braylan Grice was one of the few bright spots in the defeat, completing 13 of 20 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. The Lumberton rushing attack was almost non-existent, as the Pirates ended the game with 27 yards on 19 carries — a whopping 1.4 yards per rush.
Up next for Lumberton: a road game at Hoke.
Prediction: Lumberton 38, Hoke 24
Purnell Swett (1-6, 0-1)
When a wedding proposal that took place at halftime is the bright spot of the game, you know you have had a rough night on football field.
It was tough sledding for the Rams, who were overmatched in every facet of the game in their 57-8 loss to Scotland. Even the Scots’ backup offense made a dent on the scoreboard despite only seeing the field for two series.
The good news for Purnell Swett is that quarterback Lucas Oxendine started the game — two weeks prior, he suffered a foot injury that caused him to miss the fourth quarter in a loss to New Hanover. He finished with 33 yards on six completions against the Scots and added 45 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Hoke (0-7, 0-1)
What more is left to say about Tom Paris’ struggling program? The Bucks have taken several steps backward in his second season after winning four games in his inaugural campaign.
Hoke has been outscored 122 to 356 this season and its most competitive game was a 48-36 loss to South View in early September.
Against Richmond, the Bucks failed to score in a game for the first time since losing 48-0 to Seventy-First last year. The defense didn’t fair much better, allowing the Raiders to gain over 400 yards of total offense. Shockingly, the 51-0 loss is not the worst margin of defeat the Bucks have been handed this season — on Aug. 28 in Hope Mills, Hoke was defeated 63-6 by Jack Britt.