By Logan Martinez
LAURINBURG — The preseason can be a trying time for even the most patient player.
Four or five days a week, they take the practice field during early-morning hours and run through a litany of position-specific drills, then line up against one another and go head-to-head to test their knowledge of the playbook and physicality in between the hashmarks.
This week marks two months since Scotland officially began summer practice, and for the first time since a pair of 7-on-7 competitions in June, the Scots faced an opponent other than themselves during Wednesday’s scrimmage against Northern Durham and Douglas Byrd at Pate Stadium.
Despite the novelty of the informal setting, Scotland coach Richard Bailey said his players didn’t showcase the fire he was hoping for when they opened the practice against Northern.
“Early on, I didn’t like our intensity,” he said. “I think we felt entitled to just show up and that’s what you have to battle when you’re a good football team.”
The Knights stifled the Scotland offense on the opening drive of the game. The Scots had 10 plays to reach the end zone and failed to even crack the red zone.
A number of plays proved successful for the Scots’ offense while others were blown up in the backfield or resulted in incompletions. Bailey said scrimmages and practices are the best time to figure out which plays should stay in the playbook or get scraped completely.
“You’re trying plays — there is two or three plays you can run every time and score, but the idea is to work on multiple plays,” he said. “Some of the stuff that you know is maybe not a great play but you want to line up and try it out. They’re not necessarily the plays that I’m going to call on Friday nights.”
But Scotland’s defense, which was the hallmark of the program’s run to a fourth straight Southeastern Conference championship last season, managed to hold Northern scoreless as well. Shifty tailback Domineke McNeil found occasional creases in the Scots’ defense, but Scotland didn’t allow the Knights to score in three series that consisted of 25 plays.
Scotland notched its first touchdown when receiver Randy Leak stretched across the end zone line on a 6-yard reverse play, then during the
following series, backup running back Tyquan McNealy scampered down the Northern sideline for a 60-yard score.
Scotland backups saw plenty of burn and a number of them impressed during their time on the field, including second-string quarterback Sergio Gibson, McNealy and receiver Barry Campbell.
Gibson found Barry for a 20-yard touchdown during Scotland’s third offensive series to cap the scoring against the Knights.
“I was pleased — our backups were better than their backups,” Bailey said. “We have more depth than those two teams.”
Against Douglas Byrd, Scotland scored a touchdown on its first offensive series. Quarterback Dashaun Ferguson connected with Redric McLean on a 20-yard play action pass; the next play, Ferguson kept the ball on a read-option run for a 40-yard score.
The following series, Ferguson was flushed out of the pocket and found Leak for a 25-yard touchdown.
Gibson continued his impressive afternoon when he was inserted into the game, scoring a 60-yard touchdown on a read-option run. The next time the unit took the field, junior varsity running back Khalil Smith broke through for a 1-yard score.
Douglas Byrd was able to punch the ball into the end zone on one of its possessions, scoring a 1-yard touchdown run on its second series.
After the scrimmage, Bailey said to his team that while they are far from a perfect product he wants them to continue to work hard as next week’s season-opener against South View looms.
“It’s one of those things where when we look at film, the things we thought were going really good probably won’t be as good and the things we thought were awful probably won’t be that bad,” Bailey said. “That’s just the way it traditionally is.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.