When an athletics program is as accomplished as Scotlands each season begins with heightened expectations. Fans, near and far, expect a certain level of success from their Fighting Scots.
The fall athletic calendar is shaping up to a banner one for Scotland sports.
Now, I realize this is a bold claim — after all, the Scots just wrapped up a season in which its football program advanced to the Eastern finals of the 4A state playoffs after winning its sixth straight Southeastern Conference title. I anticipate this season will be one for the books because of growth from the other fall sports.
Cross country finished second in the conference and advanced a freshman to the state meet, the volleyball team welcomed a new coach, the girl’s tennis team narrowly missed a conference title and soccer has some talented young players moving up.
I think the Scots are hungry to prove themselves and establish their teams in the new Sandhills Athletic Conference. For many of the programs their greatest accomplishments are still in front of them.
Scotland football is expected to once again compete for a conference title and challenge for a state championship after finishing 14-1 and rolling to the 4A Eastern Championship before being upset by Cape Fear in Pate Stadium, 27-7.
The Scots, coached by Richard Bailey, return University of Georgia commit tailback Zamir White and SEC Offensive Player of the Year running back Shyeam “Smiley” McQueen. The Scots dynamic duo combined to rush for 3,010 yards and 49 touchdowns during the 2016 season. The Scots also return a stout offensive line, stellar linebacking corps led by seniors Javon Ratliffe and Chris Williams.
Girls volleyball is a sport that has been searching for an identity after the departure of former coach Molly Hayes. Scotland assistant athletic director Adam Romaine led the Lady Scots to a winning season, 13-10, 6-4 in SEC, as interim coach, but for the third year in a row the team was eliminated in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
First-year coach Molly Wheeler, who served as an assistant last season, is a former Division I volleyball player at the University of Virginia who promises to infuse the Lady Scots with a renewed sense of purpose and drive.
Scotland returns all-conference performers Nahir Pegues and Kandon Luquer along with and should contend with Pinecrest and Richmond atop the standings after finishing third last season.
Girl’s tennis, under the leadership of Atondra Ellis, are in a rebuilding year with the graduation of its top four players. Tennis finished last season 10-4 and 7-3 in SEC play to finish second behind Pinecrest. Returning for the Lady Scots will be Cheyanne Strong, Samantha Bowen, Liza McIntyre and Karrigan Campbell.
The girl’s golf should continue to improve with players that have gained a year of experience under their belts.
Cross country, led by Greg Wrape, look to build off a successful 2016 that saw four runners earn all-conference honors and rising sophomore Tony Strickland run in the 4A state meet as a freshman. The Scots finished second in the SEC for the second year in a row, the hope this year will be to surpass Pinecrest and potentially Jack Britt and Seventy-First for a conference title.
Boy’s soccer, coached by Danny Gallagher, graduated several key contributors, but that should open the door for new faces to come in and bring a reinvigorating presence to the program. The Scots first goal will be to have a winning season after finishing 6-10-2 overall and 3-7 in conference play.
Exciting times are ahead for Scotland fall sports — the only downside is the wait for them to begin.