LAURINBURG — The Scots travel to Durham today for their longest trip of the regular season. Scotland is playing almost two hours away from home at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Southern High School in Durham.
Last week the Scots (3-0) left the confines of Pate Stadium for the first time this season to travel to Marlboro County in South Carolina, but this week presents a different challenge altogether. Marlboro County’s stadium is just over a 20 minute drive from Laurinburg. Last week the team dressed at the school before boarding the buses and making the short hop across the border.
Today is completely different. The players will be dismissed from school around 1:30 p.m., eat at a local church by 2:15 and roll out of town by 2:45. That should let them arrive to the stadium around 5 and give them plenty of time for their normal pregame routines.
Sticking to the script as closely as possible is important for Scotland coach Richard Bailey, who said he prefers to stay on a regimented, punctual time schedule.
“This is the first time we’ve had to pack beforehand and dress at another stadium, so it’s a little different,” Bailey said. “We just have to deal with the ride. It’s a test of our focus.”
The team he will face is currently 1-1. The Spartans opened the season with a 29-24 loss against fellow Durham team Hillside, and last week suffered a 62-14 drubbing at the hands of South Brunswick. Southern recently moved from Class 4A to 3A and like to run a 4-2-5 defensive alignment.
Scotland’s offensive line will likely not have to deal with as many blitzes as the Bulldogs of Marlboro County threw at them last week. And that’s not the only good news for the Scots. Starting guard Cordell Campbell is expected to play after missing last week with an ankle sprain. Campbell was able to practice this week and coaches said he was looking good.
“He looked great in practice,” Bailey said on Monday, after Campbell took around 30 snaps. “He knew we needed him back.”
The Scots are coming off of a close call in Bennettsville. Scotland had its first close game of the season last Friday but left town with a 21-14 victory.
Campbell was unable to play against Marlboro County, and fellow linemen Dre Rivers had to leave with an injury early in the game, adding to the offense’s blocking woes. Quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe was still able to find running room, however, following the lead of senior Garrett Best to score the late touchdown that won the game. Rivers will still be out for an unspecified amount of time, but having Campbell back will shore up the line.
The defense continued to dominate last Friday, as they did not allow any points. The Bulldogs scored first on a fumble recovery and then on a kick returned to the house.
Bailey said he has not given up a kickoff returned for a touchdown in at least five years, so that was something they worked on during practice this week. The Scots also struggled last week with penalties, something Bailey called unacceptable. The Scots had several large gains on the ground called back due to holding.