Scotland takes its football team on the road for the first time this season as the Scots travel to South Carolina to face Marlboro County at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
It will be a different game than the first two Scotland has played this year, as the Bulldogs are a pass-first team. Both South View and Jack Britt, Scotland’s first two opponents on the schedule, were teams that wanted to run the ball as often as possible. Both had to eventually turn to the air when they fell behind on the scoreboard, but it was not their strength. Marlboro County, however, is built to throw the ball.
Junior quarterback London Johnson can scramble, often extending plays well beyond the way they were originally drawn up. And his receivers, especially Jamal Stanton and Raheem Ward, are adept at getting open. This combination presents a different challenge for Scotland’s secondary, but defensive backs coach Jamie Coleman said his players are ready to see some more action. He said he has been emphasizing to the secondary this week that they do not commit to the run until the quarterback himself has. That means staying until pass coverage until the quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage, and not a second sooner.
“I just coach them the way I was coached in college by John Wiley, who is now at ECU,” Coleman said. “His rule was you stay in coverage until that quarterback crosses the line of scrimmage. Not when he approaches it. But when he crosses that line of coverage, he becomes a ball carrier.”
Coleman said practice has been almost the same this week, since he always works his players on both pass and run defense. On Wednesday the team did several reps with a scramble drill, which they expect to see a lot of tonight. If everything goes according to plan, Coleman’s defensive backs won’t have to do a lot of extra running. The key for Scotland’s defense will be keeping Johnson contained in the pocket. Scotland’s strong secondary should keep Johnson’s options limited if the defensive line of the Scots does not let him buy time with his feet.
“We worked really hard on it today with the scramble drill. They’re very athletic with their quarterback and wide receivers. They have good speed and are athletic, shifty kids. Hopefully with the defensive line doing their containment and keeping him in the pocket, if he commits and crosses the line of scrimmage we’ll come out of coverage and make a play then,” Coleman said.
Scotland’s secondary is talented at every position. Cornerback Trejon Monley has been a playmaker on both sides of the ball, while Tysheem Tyson locks down the other corner position. Sophomore Cross Holfert has emerged as a good player at safety this year, and Robert McKoy is always a problem for opposing offenses.
Marlboro County coach Dean Boyd said something that many others have mentioned about this Scotland team: they look a lot like the squad that went on to win the state championship.
“We like to throw it around but these guys are big and fast. They look very similar to the team we played two year ago.We’ll go out there and see what happens,” Boyd said. “Those guys are well coached. It’s a pretty even series but we’ve lost the last two to them.”
Scotland defeated Marlboro County 20-12 last season. It was the fewest points scored by Scotland in a win that year. In 2011 Scotland rolled by the Bulldogs 42-7 on the way to capturing the state title.
Boyd’s team is 2-0 this season, scoring over 40 points in each game. However, those were against schools in a lower classification that the Bulldogs were expected to win.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey said he is feeling good about his team going into the game, but injuries are the main cause of concern. Starting running back Josh McPhatter is still out with an injury, and now starting guard Cordell Campbell will likely miss at least a week with an ankle sprain.
“If we were healthy I’d feel really good about it. It’s tough going down there and playing them,” Bailey said. “They’re a good football team and we’re beat up. We’re missing some key components.”