LAURINBURG — Before the start of Thursday night’s game Marlboro County had players on all fours pretending they were vicious bulldogs ready to be unleashed. By the end of the game, those same Bulldogs were walking off the field with their tails between their legs after being shut out by the Fighting Scots, 20-0.
The Bulldogs bark lost its ferocity in their first possession as Scots defensive back Manny Smith tackled running back Dylven Covington and forced a fumble. The fumble was recovered by senior Amir McNeill and set up the Scots only touchdown of the first half.
Scots quarterback Sergio Gibson then connected with senior Barry Campbell for an 11-yard gain. Gibson then found Redric McLean for a short gain before handing the ball off to running back Syheam “Smiley” McQueen.
McQueen hit a wall of Marlboro defenders and fumbled the football, but quickly recovered it to keep the Scots drive alive. One play later McQueen scampered into the end zone from 12 yards out for a touchdown. The point after by Grant Ciarroca was good giving the Scots a 7-0 lead.
Scotland looked poised to score another touchdown after a broken play by Gibson resulted in a first down, but the drive stalled due to a block in the back penalty and back-to-back incomplete passes. On fourth and 10 Gibson found McLean for a short gain but had to turn the ball over on downs to the Bulldogs on the 28-yard line.
After halftime, the Scots offense didn’t waste any time putting another seven points on the board. An 18-yard run by Alston Smith set up a big run by McQueen down to the five-yard line. One play later, McQueen found the end zone and with a successful PAT by Ciarroca the Scots had a 14-0 lead.
The Bulldogs first possession saw them fumble the ball twice before punting it back to Scotland. Then it was the Scots turn to fumble the ball. Marlboro County recovered the fumble, but it didn’t matter because one play later the Scots Javon Ratliffe picked off Evers at the 5-yard line.
Scotland’s offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover and wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter. The scoring drive started with a 34-yard run by McQueen before Gibson threw the ball deep to Campbell for another 40-yard gain. McQueen then broke free for his third touchdown. The PAT was unsuccessful, but the Scots still had a comfortable 20-0 lead with just over nine minutes left to play.
Marlboro used the rest of the game to try and get into the end zone — but the Scots defense was determined to get a second shut out. On the final play of the game, Marlboro County’s quarterback was sacked by Scotland’s Karfa Kaba from behind and Evers coughed up the ball, which the defense quickly pounced on.
After the game, head coach Richard Bailey was quick to give all the credit for the win to his defense.
“Right now the defense is carrying us — unbelievable only giving us seven points all year,” he said. “Coach Johnson and the entire defensive staff deserve a lot of credit. They are definitely playing up to their accolades right now. I’m proud of them our secondary held up and even though we didn’t pick (the ball) off we were in the right place to make some good plays. We had a great pass rush when we needed to. Our defense has just been outstanding.”
The Scots defense allowed Marlboro to gain 243 yards of total offense while forcing three fumbles and one interception. Marlboro’s two quarterbacks had a combined five carries for -25 yards and one fumble. Marlboro’s running back Dylven Covington had 18 carries for 138 yards and two fumbles.
On the other side of the ball, the Scots offense was effective but not outstanding scoring 20 points off 433 yards of total offense. Bailey said the offensive is at the level they need to be physically, but mentally they are still coming up a little short.
“Offensive line we still had a lot of miscues that we have to clean up. I challenged them at halftime to get a little tougher and get after it — which I thought we did in the second half,’ he said. “I thought we were effective when we needed to be throwing it. It’s more mental than physical — 85 to 90 percent of our problems right now are mental.”
Gibson was 6-of-10 for 120 yards. Gibson also had five carries for 16 yards and a fumble. Campbell led the Scots receivers with four receptions for 99 yards. He also had one carry for 16 yards. McLean had two catches for 21 yards.
McQueen led the Scots rushing attack with 30 carries for 231 yards and three touchdowns — all of which Bailey knows he’ll feel this weekend.
“Smiley ran the ball very hard,” he said. “He just doesn’t have the breakaway speed of Zamir so we’re not getting those 70 and 80 yard runs we’re getting a lot of 15 and 20-yard runs but he did a great job. He really did a great job and it’s a tough physical thing and he probably won’t be able to walk very good tomorrow but when you win all those bumps and bruises heal up a little faster.”
Also carrying the ball was Alston Smith with three carries for 20 yards and Christina Gibson with eight carries for 26 yards and a fumble.
The Scots will travel to Bailey’s old stomping grounds — Jack Britt — next Friday. Last season, the Scots topped Jack Britt, 14-6. In 2014, it was a 20-14 victory for the Scots and in 2013 it was a 51-21 win.
“We’ve had the upper hand for the last four years against Jack Britt, but anytime you go back to where you started your career it’s emotional,” he said. “It’s always nice to go home and beat your brother so to speak.”
The two teams will play on Sept. 9 and because Jack Britt is a Cumberland County school kick off is set for 7 p.m.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.