Each conference opponent from here on out will bring a new challenge to the Fighting Scots, who are fresh off a 42-0 drubbing of Purnell Swett last week at home.
But tasked with stopping the ‘splitback triple option’ offensive attack of the Pinecrest Patriots Friday night, the Scots will be up against something they haven’t seen before this season.
Or will see again.
“It’s scary to me because if just one of our guys misses a defensive assignment, Pinecrest could break off a huge play against us,” said Scotland coach Richard Bailey. “And they are an athletic enough team to pull off that big play as well. There won’t be another team we face this year that will attack us like Pinecrest.”
Pinecrest senior running back Dwayne Simpson was producing yards and touchdowns at a furious pace this season in the backfield. In 114 rushing attempts, Simpson has accumulated 17 rushing touchdowns and nearly 750 yards on the ground.
But after their first four regular season games in which they went 2-2, the decision was made by head coach Chris Metzger to utilize the team’s best athlete as the signal-caller on offense.
And while the QB change has resulted in meager offensive production, the dynamic talent of Simpson has nonetheless drawn Bailey’s attention during pre-game preparations.
“He’s one of the best pure athletes around,” said Bailey of the Pinecrest QB. “And the offense they’ve built around him is designed for him to touch the ball on every snap.”
While the offense has sputtered in recent weeks (the Patriots’ last game, a 24-0 victory over Lumberton, saw the team compile just over 150 yards of total offense), the defense and special teams of Pinecrest have more than shouldered the load.
On the season, the Patriots’ defense has produced a 23-12 turnover differential, with several of those credited to the stellar secondary of Pinecrest. Cornerback Nick Lacy has accounted for five of those turnovers, recovering three fumbles and also adding two interceptions as well.
The leading tackler on defense is also in the defensive backfield: Free safety Sam Brower leads all Pinecrest tacklers with 71 and has also added two picks to his regular season numbers.
And then there’s the kicking tandem of Jackson Maples and Frankie Painter, arguably the best in the state.
A sure-fire division-1 collegiate prospect, Maples has hit five field goals from 50 yards or more, including a 60 yard attempt. And Painter has pinned opposing offenses deep in their own territory time and time again as well.
The result is a Pinecrest team that seeks to beat opponents with field position, turnovers and clock control (Pinecrest has thrown just 73 passes in seven games, an average of just over 10 pass attempts a game).
“The Patriots always force you to make 80-yard drives to score points,” Bailey said. “They would like to shorten the game, while we want to be a fast, uptempo team that puts up points early and often. If we don’t get the ball on offense like we want to, it could turn into a New Hanover-type game that puts pressure on us to make the most of each offensive possession.”
The Pinecrest Patriots are 4-3 this season, which includes losses to New Hanover and Jack Britt.