LAURINBURG — A quarterback with a name other than “Ratliffe” stitched across his back will line up under center for Scotland tonight at South View. Head coach Richard Bailey has named junior Dashaun Ferguson the new quarterback for the Fighting Scots.
Although Bailey did not make the announcement official, Ferguson was given all of the first-team reps in Thursday’s practice. Ferguson, who led the junior varsity team to an 8-2 record last season, was considered the favorite to win the job after Ratliffe suffered a fractured skull in an ATV accident three weeks ago.
“It means a lot — hard work paid off,” Ferguson said. “Given the situation, I had to step up and I guess I stepped up for the job… . Each rep I want to progress at each day and get better and better because if I’m not getting better, the team isn’t.”
Ty McLaurin, a speedy sophomore known for his supreme playmaking ability, first challenged Ferguson for the starting position at the beginning of the month, but Bailey has since moved him back to wide receiver.
The next challenger for the position was senior Jaleel McLean, who was the backup to Ratliffe last year. McLean was initially moved to fullback at the beginning of the summer to take advantage of his talents at that position, but he suffered a severe ankle sprain and missed a few weeks of practice. He was given a few reps at quarterback after his return.
Bailey wants to make it clear that no one player can replace Jaylend Ratliffe’s production — it will be a team effort.
“Ultimately Dashaun was just a little more steady with what we were doing and a little more consistent,” Bailey said. “He’s not making a bunch of mistakes. Our quarterback doesn’t have to win the game for us, he just can’t lose it for us. Dashaun is very good at managing the game.”
McLean said he is more suited to play at other positions on offense, like fullback and tight end, and has confidence in Ferguson’s ability to lead the team.
“It’s been hectic trying to learn everything all at one time, it’s been kind of hard,” McLean said. “I hope Dashaun does good so I can stay in the spot that I am… . I know Fergy, he can get it done. He’s matured fast — faster than everyone thought.”
There will be several key things to watch going into tonight’s contest against Mid-South opponent South View. Ferguson’s play will be something to keep an eye on, but so will the unorthodox style of offense the Tigers like to run. During this day and age of no-huddle spread offenses, very few teams deploy pro style, I-formation offenses and Bailey said that will present a challenge to his squad.
“South View is an old school team that’s a little weird these days,” Bailey said. “You see all these teams spread out and they’re in the I-formation. You could look at a 1995 film of South View and they’re still doing the same stuff … . It is going to be a test for our defense because they have some quality people and some experience.”
Bailey said season-opening games are always a bit sloppy, and he expects both teams to make their fair share of mistakes. The key for the Fighting Scots is to limit their own mistakes and capitalize on the ones the Tigers make.
“The key is to eliminate turnovers, be efficient on offense, play great defense, and create short fields for ourselves,” Bailey said. “Hopefully, they’ll make more mistakes than we do — in early games a lot of times it comes down to that kind of stuff, who makes the most mistakes.”
How Ferguson reacts to adversity on the varsity level is yet to be seen, but one things is for certain — he and his team expect to win.
“We’re going to try our very best to get back to states,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been working hard since school got out. The team doesn’t expect anything less than a state championship — I’m going to have to try my best to step up and lead my team to where we want to go.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.