Scotland finally has a bit of breathing room at the top.
After escaping with a thrilling win against Pinecrest last Friday, the Scots have firmly planted themselves at the top of my Southeastern Conference Power Rankings. The Patriots were one or two plays away from knocking off the four-time defending conference champion, but fell short in a game that lived up to every bit of the hype proceeding their meeting with the Scots.
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 10.
1. Scotland (8-0, 2-0)
The streak is still alive. Barely.
Scotland extended its SEC winning streak to 22 games a week ago after posting a 35-31 home win against Pinecrest. In an atmosphere that rivaled that of any game across the state this season, the Scots sent their fans home happy, and relieved, when they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 30 seconds remaining.
Tailback Zamir White ran it into the end zone from seven yards out for the game-winning touchdown, punctuating another stellar performance from the star sophomore. He finished with 238 yards and four scores on 35 carries.
But it was the passing game that was the X-factor for the Scots — quarterback Dashaun Ferguson completed 17 of 20 attempts for 184 yards and one touchdown while not committing a turnover. Receiver Randy Leak was perhaps the hero of the game, hauling in 12 receptions for 128 yards and a score. On Scotland’s game-winning drive, the senior made a clutch catch on fourth-and-4 to keep the series alive.
Up next for Scotland: its homecoming game against Hoke.
Prediction: Scotland 56, Hoke 14
2. Pinecrest (7-1, 1-1)
The Patriots were one stop away from securing its first win against Scotland since 2009 and supplanting Richard Bailey’s squad as the team to beat in the SEC.
Despite the loss, the Patriots looked every bit like a contender for state championship. The last time Pinecrest entered Pate Stadium undefeated, it lost 75-28 in 2013. This go-around, Chris Metzger’s team more than held their own in an electric road environment.
Christian Ledbetter was steady under center for the Patriots, completing 6 of 9 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored two more touchdowns on the ground while rushing 16 times for 72 yards.
Were it not for the late-game heroics from Leak and the Scotland offense, Jaylin Dickerson would have been stolen the headlines with his play. The junior is quickly garnering the attention of college scouts, and for good reason — he rushed for a 70-yard touchdown on Pinecrest’s first offensive play from scrimmage, returned a punt 85 yards for a score in the fourth quarter and he also recovered a fumble on defense.
Up next for Pinecrest: a chance to rebound at home against Purnell Swett.
Prediction: Pinecrest 49, Purnell Swett 12
3. Richmond (7-1, 2-0)
The Raiders continue to cruise through the early portion of their conference schedule. Their latest victim: Purnell Swett.
Richmond routed the Rams 59-14 at home a week ago behind six touchdown passes from quarterback Leon Zeigler. The junior only needed nine completions to toss six scores, throwing for 225 yards on 14 attempts.
Receiver Lavell Ellerbe led all players with five catches for 139 yards, and he reeled in three touchdown receptions.
The defensive front had a field day against the Purnell Swett offensive line — Khalil Stancil registered three sacks, and Otira Robinson had two. Linebacker Devon Hunt continued to do what he does best: rack up tackles. The senior added 13 more to his season total in the win.
Up next for Richmond: its second straight home game against a school from Robeson County. The Raiders will welcome Lumberton to Rockingham for Senior Night.
Prediction: Richmond 51, Lumberton 20
4. Lumberton (4-4, 1-1)
The Pirates have flirted with the .500 mark for several weeks now, and once again reached it with a 49-34 win against Hoke in Raeford. The victory was the Pirates’ first conference win this season.
Lumberton’s offensive game plan was simple: give running back Troy Mitchell the ball and get out of the way. The senior had 274 running yards and five touchdowns on 36 carries.
Freshman quarterback Braylan Grice added 48 yards on the ground to go along with 108 yards through the air.
The Pirates scored 49 points through the first three quarters, and despite being held out of the end zone in the fourth, they kept Hoke from scoring during the final 12 minutes as well.
5. Purnell Swett (1-7, 0-2)
The Rams hung in there against one of the SEC’s premier programs in Week 9, but defensive breakdowns in key moments of the game spoiled the Rams’ chances of securing a monumental upset.
Purnell Swett’s Lucas Oxendine threw a 93-yard pick-six on the Rams’ second offensive possession that allowed Richmond to quickly build a 14-0 lead, then the Raiders connected on a 54-yard touchdown pass just before halftime that ballooned the deficit from 26-14 to 33-14.
Oxendine was 21 of 27 for 189 yards with two touchdowns in the loss, but he also toss two interceptions. Luke Brooks had six receptions for 76 yards and caught both of Oxendine’s touchdown strikes.
6. Hoke (0-8, 0-2)
Tom Paris’ program continues to hang a goose egg in the win column after its loss to Lumberton, and it doesn’t get any easier for Hoke as it heads to Laurinburg to play Scotland today.
Despite missing their best player, running back Jacob Rushing, in the loss to the Pirates, the Bucks still racked up 365 yards on the ground. Three different players surpassed the 100-yard plateau — Andre Pegues ran for 103 yards and a score on 10 carries, Quinn Maynor tallied 130 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and Brandon Smith rushed for 137 yards and reached the end zone on nine carries.
However, two fumbles by Pegues and another by Donovan Wirt hampered the Bucks’ chances at earning their first victory of the season.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.