LAURINBURG — “It’s not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” That quote comes from legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant, and it applies to the Scotland High School team as it begins the playoffs tonight.
The number of schools left practicing was cut dramatically after the regular season ended last Friday, and it will shrink every week now that the elimination tournament to crown the champions is starting. Scotland coach Richard Bailey said the team just needs to continue doing what they have been doing all season, practicing hard and embracing the grind.
“A lot of the teams that get to the playoffs and lose do so because they get tired of practicing and tired of hearing the coaches talk,” Bailey said. “I tell the team, everyone wants to win a state championship, but not everyone is willing to do what you have to do to get there.”
The two teams that reach the state championship will have played 16 games, the same as an NFL regular season.
Bailey said reaching the playoffs should hopefully rejuvenate teams, but there is also something else a lot of players are playing for. Their football careers. For the seniors who will not go on to play college football, any Friday over the next month could be their last.
“I tell the team, don’t let Friday be the last time you put on football equipment,” Bailey said to WLNC during his radio show Monday.
Scotland starts what it hopes will be a deep playoff run tonight at 7:30 at Pate Stadium when they host Heritage High School. Heritage, out of Wake Forest, is a relatively new school. This is just their third football season. They finished the regular season 6-5 overall but picked up a couple of quality wins, most notably over Knightdale. The Huskies won that game 23-22, handing Knightdale their only loss of the season.
Heritage is an option team, driven primarily by quarterback Blake Walters. Scotland might have benefited from playing Richmond — another option team — last week, although there are differences in how the teams run their offense. Richmond ran the option out of the shotgun formation, while Heritage has Walters line up under the center for the majority of snaps.
The key difference for the Scotland defense to focus on is that the plays will develop faster, so the defenders will have to read their assignments and decide what to do in less time.
Heritage also likes to send receivers in motion to add another wrinkle into their offensive strategy and give Walters someone to pitch the ball to. Bailey said he feels good about how the Scots stack up though, especially with the athletes on his side.
Cornerback Trejon Monley will likely be a game-time decision for Scotland after he sustained an injury while intercepting a Richmond pass Friday, but everyone else should be ready to go for Scotland. Senior running back Josh McPhatter had a slight shoulder injury as the week began but he is feeling better, Bailey said.
Gates open at 6:30 for tonight’s game.