Last week, the Fighting Scots weren’t the only top-ranked team to receive a scare in their conference matchup.
The undefeated Richmond Raiders (who currently share the conference lead with rival Scotland) found themselves down 10-6 heading into halftime, as a motivated Lumberton squad took advantage of key passing and special teams opportunities in the early goings.
Like the Scots did against Hoke County, Richmond would eventually right the ship and best Lumberton 30-17 to retain a perfect conference record.
The same depleted-but-hungry Pirates team (who needs to win one of the next two games to possibly earn a wild card berth in the state playoffs) will travel to Scotland Friday night. And they will face a Scotland team that they’ve beaten in three of the past four seasons.
“It’s hard not to look ahead to our game with Richmond because so much is riding on it,” said Scotland coach Richard Bailey. “But you simply can’t let an underdog team gain momentum early, because it’s nearly impossible to get it back. It happened to us last week against Hoke, and it happened to Richmond as well. Lumberton is a good team, so it’s very important that we stay in the moment. They have a lot of confidence, and there’s no mental obstacle for the Pirates involved with beating us.”
Looking at their game against Lumberton, Bailey compares the Pirates to the same Hoke County Bucks team that jumped out to a 19-0 lead over Scotland before the Scots scored 34 unanswered points to survive.
Much like the Bucks, Lumberton is a team that revolves around a time-consuming running attack led by senior #20 Daniel Robinson, one of the top running backs in the conference. Through the first eight games of the season, Robinson has collected 1071 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 188 attempts, good for 7.7 yards per carry.
But looking at the Pirates’ offense as a whole, Bailey sees the innovative approach employed by head coach Mike Brill (who is in his final season at Lumberton) as his primary concern heading into the game.
“Coach Brill is a mad scientist, and I mean that in the best way possible,” said Bailey, whose Jack Britt squad was bested by Lumberton last year in a 21-14 overtime upset.”His offense is based on deception and a lot of moving parts. They’ll try to pound it out with us, shorten the game and keep the ball out of our hands with the running attack, but then attack you with a deep pass that they usually utilize pretty effectively. When you play Lumberton, you have to expect the unexpected.”
One advantage the Scots have over Lumberton currently is roster depth. The Pirates are hobbled due to several injuries sustained by their starting lineup, and while Bailey says that the current roster “looks pretty good to me injuries or not,” it still has hindered the Pirates during this key conference stretch.
However, Scotland will also be without one of their key playmakers Friday night. Starting cornerback and punt return specialist Trejon Monley was suspended indefinitely this week due to violation of school policies, and his return for the final game of the season still remains a question mark.
Last week at Hoke, it was Monley who sparked the Scotland second half rally with an interception and punt return touchdown in the third quarter.
With that said, Bailey believes that his players have more than enough motivation to set up their inevitable conference-deciding clash with Richmond.
“The fact that we didn’t play well last week at Hoke has these kids believing that they have to be ready and prepared to play at all times,” he said. “We simply aren’t a good enough football team to be looking past anybody.”