LAURINBURG — The threat of heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hermine caused Scotland and Marlboro County to move Friday night’s rivalry game to 7 p.m. tonight.
The hope is by starting the game 30 minutes earlier than normal tonight the teams will be able to get the game completed before the rain hits Thursday — plus, Friday is still a school night. Moving the game up one day just made sense to Scotland Athletic Director and head coach Richard Bailey.
“It is a little bit iffy about when the rain is going to hit today, but it was very clear that Friday was going to be a rain out with three or four inches in our area,” he said. “While we could play in the rain, this is also a big rivalry game that makes a lot of money for the athletic program and we need people to be here. We thought about moving it to Saturday because the weather looks good but it’s Labor Day weekend and people have plans. It’s also opening weekend for college football so that wouldn’t be a great gate either so Thursday seemed like the most logical.”
Moving the game also gives the Scots one less day of practice and prepare for the high-flying Marlboro offense and one less day for his growing number of injured running backs to recover. Along with junior Zamir White fellow running backs Khalil Smith and Donta Green will both be out this week.
“Zamir is very doubtful,” Bailey said. “Khalil has an joint separation in his shoulder so he’s out and Donta Green suffered a concussion Friday so he’s out as well. We went from having a whole lot of people who would run the football to only having a couple guys.”
Scotland started the season with nine players in the backfield — White, Smith, Green, Shyeim McQueen, Sergio Gibson, Davon Ratliffe, Alston Smith, Markel White and Christian Gibson — even with the injuries, the Scots still have six players who can run the ball.
McQueen has stepped into the workhorse role for the Scots and is averaging just over six yards per carry. The sophomore currently leads the team in scoring with four touchdowns and Bailey is grateful to have him.
“We’re blessed to have a very good running back who is still standing in Syheam McQueen,” said Bailey. “He would start on every team in the state of North Carolina at tailback — except this one.”
The Scots offense is still a work in progress on the other side of the ball the defense has been performing above and beyond people’s expectations, but Bailey doesn’t want to put the cart before the horse. He along with defensive back coach Corey Johnson and his staff want to see how the Scots do against a more worthy opponent.
“Coming off last year our defense has been maligned a little bit so I know it’s gratifying to coach Johnson and all our defensive coaches for our defense to be playing so well,” Bailey said. “Marlboro hasn’t score a lot of points in their first couple of games, but they’ve faced some pretty good defensive teams and they throw the ball a lot. Anytime the ball is being thrown around the yard a lot anything can happen, hopefully we can create some pressure and force some turn overs. We had the short field a couple of times Friday night which enabled up to score some points since our offense wasn’t playing great.”
In a big rivalry game, like Scotland and Marlboro, turnovers could be the momentum shift that could change everything. Marlboro’s two quarterbacks sophomore Elijah Blair and senior Jacob Evers have yet to throw an interception — the Scotland secondary has forced three interceptions so far this season.
One thing Bailey said he still has to improve on his in-game adjustments because the Scots aren’t sure yet what type of defense the Bulldogs are going to come out in. Traditionally they are a 3-3 or 3-4 defense, but last season when the two teams met Marlboro switched things up and ran a 4-3.
“We’re not 100 percent sure which defense they are going to run,” he said. “Hopefully we can make adjustments on the sideline, which we have not been doing a great job of that yet. As coaches we’ve come up with some good ideas, but we’re having a hard time getting the kids to understand it without repping it in practice.”
Being able to adjust on the fly is something the Scots will have to do if they want to remain undefeated because they already know the Bulldogs aren’t going to roll over and give them the “W.”
“Last year on paper we probably should have beat them substantially and we were barely able to come away with a win,” Bailey said. “They always play us tough. It’s a big rivalry game. A lot of the people work and go to church with people from Bennettsville. It’s very important to the communities of these two schools.”
Scotland and Marlboro County will kick off tonight at 7 p.m. at Pate Stadium.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.