With the opening week of the high school football season in the books, it’s time to unveil the Southeastern Conference Power Rankings. Luckily, this isn’t college football where rankings determine if you make the playoffs, and you aren’t eliminated from contention by losing one or two games. If you don’t like where I ranked your team, we can have a fruitful discussion about it through a friendly phone call, email, or social media — but leave the pitchforks at home, please.
Without further adieu, here are my rankings following Week 1.
1. Scotland (1-0)
The Fighting Scots started the season about as well as they could have hoped last Friday in Hope Mills, as they jumped out to a 35-0 first quarter lead over the South View Tigers en route to a dominating 52-0 win.
All eyes were on quarterback Dashuan Ferguson, a young man facing the unenviable task of stepping in for the injured Jaylend Ratliffe. Ferguson let South View, and in turn the entire Southeastern Conference, know that Scotland wasn’t going to just lie down despite the absence of their best player. He orchestrated a touchdown drive on the Fighting Scots’ first possession, and followed that up with a 55-yard bomb to receiver Randy Leak on his very first pass attempt as a varsity player. He finished the game without throwing an incomplete pass, going 3-3 for 78 yards and a touchdown, while also accumulating 19 rushing yards.
Up next for Scotland: a trip to Fayetteville to take on coach Richard Bailey’s former team, Jack Britt. The Buccaneers (0-1) will look to rebound from a 18-13 loss at Southeast Raleigh last week, and nothing would ease the pain faster than defeating their old coach.
2. Pinecrest (1-0)
The Patriots were a revelation last season, winning 11 games, finishing second in the Southeastern conference, and advancing to the second round of the state playoffs.
This year didn’t get off to as promising a start, as Pinecrest found themselves down 12-0 in the second quarter to Overhills at home. That’s when dual-threat quarterback Christian Ledbetter took over, as he engineered a 16-play, 78-yard drive to close the gap and shifted the momentum back in the Patriots favor. Pinecrest went on to win 23-12, as Ledbetter tallied 255 total yards and three touchdowns.
If Pinecrest hopes to sustain the success that accompanied them last season, they’ll have to cut down on the penalties and early turnovers that plagued them against Overhills. The Patriots have a lot of talent — now, it’s just a matter of improving execution.
Up next for Pinecrest: a home contest against Douglas Byrd (0-1), who will be looking to rebound from a 38-0 shellacking to Lumberton last week on the road. If Pinecrest has another lackluster performance and Lumberton impresses again, anticipate seeing that reflected in the rankings next week.
3. Lumberton (1-0)
After a dismal 1-10 season and a head coaching change, few expected the Pirates to contend in the Southeastern conference this season. They may have debunked that theory after beating Douglas Byrd 38-0 at home last week, already matching their win total from last year.
Lumberton introduced a new inflatable entrance tunnel and yellow smoke as the players ran out onto the field — another new wrinkle for a team that is anxious the turn the page after last year. Another welcome change was the on-field performance, as quarterback Auston Foley had little trouble picking apart the Byrd defense, completing 8-11 passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. When Foley wasn’t slinging the ball around, tailback Josh Sheridan was gashing through defenders on his way to 168 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries.
Up next for Lumberton: a home contest against Cumberland County power Pine Forest (1-0). The Trojans beat Purnell Swett 35-21 last week, but were not pleased with their overall performance. This is big-time matchup for the Pirates, who will look to prove last week was no fluke.
4. Richmond (1-0)
I know, I know. I can already hear the outcry from the Richmond faithful about being ranked lower than Lumberton, who the Raiders beat 55-6 last year. But this is a ranking of the teams this season, not last, and based on Week 1 performances, Lumberton clearly outplayed Richmond.
Richmond beat Rocky River 21-14 last week in a fairly pedestrian performance. It took a miraculous play by defensive back Daryus Skinner in the 4th quarter to preserve the lead and seal the win. The Raiders offense seemed to fall into ruts throughout the course of the game, and the passing attack in particular suffered for it. Richmond’s Miles Grant was a stud for the Raiders, however, rushing for 137 yards and scoring all three of the team’s touchdowns.
Up next for Richmond: a trip to Myrtle Beach to take on Marlboro County. This will be the Bulldogs’ regular season opener, and a road win here would ease some of the angst among Raider fans.
5. Hoke (1-0)
The Bucks began the Tom Paris era with a win, as they defeated Ashley 34-6 last week. The school from Wilmington never really posed a threat to Hoke, and as the competition becomes stiffer for the Bucks it will be interesting to see just how good this team really is.
Hoke introduced Paris’s new spread offense Friday with great success. Tailback Jacob Rushing lived up to his last name, gaining 118 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries. Quarterback Antonio Peterkin also had a stellar performance, going 11-14 for 127 yards and throwing one touchdown.
Up next for Hoke: their second consecutive home game as they host Sun Valley(0-1), a school that hails from Monroe and is a member of the 3A Southern Carolina Conference. This will be a bit of a tougher test than the one Hoke faced last week as they begin the meat of their schedule. The Spartans lost to Hough last week, 34-20.
6. Purnell Swett (0-1)
The Rams finished 3-8 last year and only won one conference game, but they nearly began the 2014 season with the best win out of anyone in the conference.
Coach Mark Heil and his team led Pine Forest 14-7 at halftime and were tied 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter before a rampant string of cramps forced many players to head to the sidelines. Purnell Swett lacks depth, and that was on display as they couldn’t fill the voids left by many of the ailing players, resulting in a 35-21 loss.
Despite the defeat, it was an encouraging season-opener. Moral victories only get teams so far, though, and it will be interesting to see if the team can remedy the cramping issues that plagued them. Quarterback Thristian Lowry looked good in the team’s debut, scoring three total touchdowns and racking up 225 passing yards.
Up next for Purnell Swett: the team’s home opener as they take on Red Springs (0-1). The Red Devils found themselves down 30-8 at halftime to Whiteville last Friday, and went on to lose 47-30.