LAURINBURG — Win or go home.
That’s what is at stake for the Scotland and the rest of the teams teams chasing a championship in the North Carolina state playoffs.
The Scots, a No. 2 seed in the the 4A West Region, will take the field tonight at Pate Stadium to play No. 15 Davie in first-round action.
Scotland enters the contest as the clear favorite — Richard Bailey’s team was ranked No. 1 for the third straight week in Tuesday’s Associated Press 4A poll, and they are a perfect 11-0 this season after defeating rival Richmond Senior 28-21 a week ago in Laurinburg.
The win was Scotland’s fifth straight over its rivals to the west, which is a program record, and it also clinched the Scots’ fifth straight Southeastern Conference championship.
“It tells you the direction the program is going, I’m proud of where it’s at,” Bailey said. “It’s harder to stay on top than it is to get here … .
“We’ve got to fight to sustain it, but it’s nice to be on top for awhile. It’s a credit to the coaches, the kids and the program. It’s easy to go win one championship; it’s another to consistently do it, especially with the conference that we play in.”
Davie finished 5-6 this year under coach Holman DeVore. The War Eagles won their final two games to qualify for the playoffs, including a 39-19 victory over Parkland last week. Davie placed fourth in the Central Piedmont Conference, a league that features talented teams like West Forsyth, Reagan and North Davidson, with a 3-3 record.
“I think they’re playing their best football they’ve played at the end of the year which is a mark of a well-coached team, and so we’re going to have to be ready to play,” Bailey said. “They have nothing to lose and they do have good tradition at Davie County.”
The Mocksville-based program has qualified for the playoffs the past two years after missing the postseason in 2013. Last year as a No. 14 seed, Davie was defeated by Catholic 37-22 in the first round.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds leads a War Eagle offense that is averaging 237 passing yards per game. The 5-11, 180-pounder has completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards. Reynolds has tossed 26 touchdown passes to go along with nine interceptions and is averaging 14.7 yards per completion.
Reynolds has also accounted for over 60 percent of Davie’s production on the ground. He’s rushed 150 times for 635 yards and eight touchdowns. Three running backs — Curtis Gray, Stephon Dalton and Greg Dalton — all have at least 230 yards or more on the ground.
Receiver Ben Ellis has put up eye-popping numbers the past two years for the War Eagles, following up a 47-catch, 1,122-yard, 10-touchdown campaign last year with a 83 receptions for 1,099 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
“Their quarterback is a very good football player and they have a wide receiver that has 83 catches,” Bailey said. “They do a good job in their scheme of doing a lot of run-pass option-type stuff. Their quarterback is like houdini on film, he makes people miss, changes field two or three times, throws the ball sidearm.”
Scotland will try to counter the War Eagles’ offense with a stout defense led by senior linebacker Jonathan Smith, who notched the game-clinching interception in the final seconds last week against Richmond.
On offense, the Scots have increasingly become more balanced as the season has progressed. Earlier in the year when starting quarterback Dashaun Ferguson was forced to the sideline with a knee injury, running back Zamir White carried the bulk of the work. He had 26 or more carries in four of Scotland’s first six games, but has only done so once since.
Much of that can be attributed to the steady production from Ferguson since his return. The senior, who was more of a dual-threat quarterback last year when he rushed for 771 yards, had only 122 yards heading into the Richmond game due to gameplans designed to protect him from reinjuring his knee.
The Raiders keyed in on White and crashed down on almost every read-option run, which forced Ferguson to keep the ball and make plays with his legs. He more than stepped up to that challenge, rushing for 100 yards and scoring two total touchdowns in the victory.
Bailey hopes Ferguson’s rushing ability, along with his 13-to-0 touchdown-to interception ratio, will keep defenses honest as the Scots prepare for their playoff run.
“That was good to see Dashaun do that, people really have to think now when they watch film and they see Dashaun pull the ball and get some good runs,” Bailey said. “It was important for us long-term.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.