The formula appears simple for the Fighting Scots to best the 7-1 Hoke County Bucks on Friday night. Stop the run, and you’ll stop Hoke County.
But things become much more complicated when stopping the Bucks’ rushing attack means stopping running back Detrez Newsome.
“He’s as good as they get,” said Scotland coach Richard Bailey of Newsome. “You can halt a lot of what Hoke tries to do if you can slow #6 (Newsome) down. The only problem is that seven of the eight teams that they’ve played this year have failed to stop him.”
Through the first eight games of the season, Newsome has compiled 1557 rushing yards on 173 carries (averaging 9.0 yards-per-carry) and 23 rushing touchdowns, making him one of the top rushers in the state.
“In the southeastern conference he’s the best, no question,” said Hal Nunn, sports reporter for the News Journal out of Hoke County. “In fact, he’s one of the best running backs I’ve seen in some time. The way he makes people miss tackles is definitely a gift.”
The one team that proved successful in containing Newsome was the Richmond Raiders two weeks ago, which also resulted in Hoke’s only loss of the season. Newsome had 68 rushing yards and one touchdown on 19 carries in the Bucks’ 49-14 road loss to Richmond which saw the Raiders stack nine defenders in the box strictly to stop Newsome.
While the attention of the Fighting Scots will be firmly on Newsome, Hoke has also gained a reputation for its athleticism over the course of the 2012 season. Two of the Bucks’ skill position players on offense (Brandon McRae and Jawane Harris) are also track stars for Hoke County as well and are known for their blazing speed on route-running and kickoff returns.
“They’re athletes are on par with Marlboro County and New Hanover in terms of the best we’ve seen this season,” Bailey said. “Hoke is a very speedy bunch, and the key will be to match their pace and intensity.”
However, despite the impressive flashes of potential that Hoke has demonstrated this season, health has been a primary source of concern for the Bucks. McRae (who often shares the backfield with Newsome) returned in limited action last week against Lumberton, and Harris is questionable for Friday’s game against the Scots with a sprained MCL.
“If these guys come back healthy it would give Hoke its best shot at a competitive game,” Nunn said. “If they’re not healthy, then it could be the Richmond game all over again.”
But regardless of player availability, the strategy will remain the same for the Bucks: Give Newsome the ball and allow quarterback Geoffery Thompson to make plays with his feet and throw short passes.
“They want to tighten up their offense by completing short passes and creating lanes for Newsome to run between,” Nunn said.
The Bucks run a 4-3 defense that is centered around blitzing and creating disruption. Their anchor is team co-captain Jamal Darden, who leads the team by a wide margain with more than 70 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Hoke also has extra incentive to leave it all out on the field against the Scots Friday night. Though Scotland is heavily favored in the game, should the Bucks pull off the upset and Scotland wins out, it would be a three-way tie atop the conference between Scotland, Richmond and Hoke.
With the conference schedule coming into the home stretch for the 2012 Fighting Scots, the stakes will only rise from here.