LAURINBURG — Coach Richard Bailey’s mantra leading up to this week’s home game against New Hanover is simple — “We’re going to play hard and play fast and we’ll see if they can keep up with us.”
Last season, the Scots got off to a blistering start against the Wildcats with 41 first-half points. New Hanover surprised the Fighting Scots in the second half and scored 21 points but they weren’t enough as the Scots on the game, 48-28.
“We were up by 41 in the first half of last year’s game but after that they really rebounded and ended up playing in the Mideastern finals, so you never know,” said Bailey.
The 2015 season for New Hanover ended in the semi-finals of the 4A Mideastern playoffs. This year the team has gotten off to a rocky start with a 1-2 record heading into Friday’s game at Pate Stadium. New Hanover will be running a two-quarterback offense with two slot backs and some athletic wide receivers on the perimeter.
“They have a little slot guy, No. 7, very quick and athletic guy,” said Bailey. “They hand it to him, throw it to him. He’s sort of their guy they want to get the ball to in space. They play two quarterbacks — one is more of a runner, the other one throws it — they have some good weapons and they are very versatile.”
No. 7 in black and orange will be junior Wiz Vaughn, a 5’11” slot back and free safety. The two New Hanover quarterbacks are No. 8 junior Francis Meehan and sophomore No. 11 Blake Walston.
In order to get Vaughn the ball, Bailey said New Hanover likes to run a lot of run-pass option plays, which means the play is a run, but the Wildcats will have pass options as a result of how the offense and defense have to line up. It was a system the Scots defense struggled with last year, but Bailey is confident is quicker secondary and linebackers won’t have as many issues on Friday night
“Those are difficult sometimes because they put your linebackers in a state of which way do I go,” he said. “We did not do a great job with that last year, but this year’s team is a little bit more equipped to deal with that.”
After four weeks, the Scots defense has only given up 13 points and are starting to get a little more confident, but Bailey said he doesn’t want them to get cocky or complacent because that’s when mistakes happen.
“Defensively we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Keep playing hard and stay healthy,” he said. “Coach Johnson has a hard job right now because he has to fight complacency with those guys — they are really feeling their oats. They feel like they are the best defense in the state. Don’t get me wrong I hope we can be, but we’ve still got a long ways to go.”
On the offensive side, the Scots had 308 yards of total offense last week against Jack Britt — 305 of that was rushing yards — but Bailey said there is still work that needs to be done, mainly getting the offense to perform well consistently.
“Overall I thought our offensive line played better, we still made some assignment breakdowns but some of those aren’t necessarily with the offensive line its wide receivers and running backs,” Bailey said.
The Scots offense will be going up against an undersized New Hanover defensive line, but Bailey said what they lack in size they make up for in athletic ability. The Wildcats return five starters from last season’s team, a defense that only allowed 19.7 points per game.
“They aren’t really big, but they are pretty athletic,” he said. “They have a very good defensive tackle No. 90 he’s a bigger kid. He’s a stalky, strong kid. Both their inside linebackers are physical kids and they have decent size. They are a little smaller on the defensive end and some of their secondary guys.”
Senior Khalil Toney will be wearing No. 90 for the Wildcats and is 5’ 11” and weighs in at 263 pounds. The Wildcats also have a hefty tackle in No. 76 Jayquan Jones, a 6’2” 280 pound senior.
New Hanover does have a number of players who will be two-way starters on Friday night, which could work to the Scots advantage since they are known for wearing teams down as the game progresses.
“We like to lean on them a little bit, a lot of body blows early and then later it really pays off,” said Bailey. “A lot of that comes from playing at a fast pace and having running backs that are very punishing — with Zamir and Smiley — the people doing the tackling are getting hurt more than the ones being tackled. By the fourth quarter those guys aren’t there or they start breaking those tackles. It is tough to keep that up for four quarters if you’re playing against us.”
The Scots and the Wildcats will kick off Friday night at Pate Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.