He said it at the end of Scotland’s 21-14 conference championship victory over Richmond on Friday Oct. 26. And as the Fighting Scots huddled around him at the conclusion of Thursday’s practice, coach Richard Bailey said it yet again.
Every single team is good from here on out in the 4A state playoffs.
With that said, the East Chapel Hill squad that Scotland will welcome to Pate Stadium on Friday night appears to be an average team by most accounts. Seeded eighth in the Mideast pod and 16th overall, the Wildcats finished their season 5-5 (3-3 in the PAC 6 conference) and are appearing in their first postseason in years.
But a team not expecting to run the 4A gamut is a dangerous team says Bailey, because they are a team willing to try most anything.
“They’re very excited to be in the playoffs, and that makes them a team that has nothing to lose,” Bailey said. “I expect to see every possible trick play that can be drawn up thrown at us. We’re going to approach this game with a business-like mentality, because we have to take each team seriously if we want to climb the ladder to where we want to get this season.”
The Wildcats made it out of a pass-happy conference according to Bailey, and the team has fully embraced this offensive style.
On the year, East Chapel Hill has attempted 327 total passes (to Scotland’s 164) and made stars out of senior wide receivers Jackson Boyer and Will Buckley, who have 100 receptions and 1100 yards between them.
However, the quarterback position has seen some turmoil in recent weeks says Bailey, as senior quarterback Ben Jones reportedly left the team with two games remaining in the regular season. In his place has been freshman quarterback Connor Stough, who has completed 64% of his passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions in his brief time as a starter.
“With a freshman QB, we want to rattle him a little bit and see how he handles the playoff atmosphere,” Bailey said. “Another key will be to get them to throw a massive amount of passes, not kill us with one big passing play. I’m sure the ball will be thrown all over the yard on Friday, and it might give them a puncher’s chance because we haven’t faced that type of attack as much this year.”
Arguably the strongest suit of the Wildcats is their defensive line, which is led by a duo of pass-rushing specialists. They are 6’0”, 300-pound nose guard Chris Alston (who led the team with six sacks this season) and defensive end Kevin Mangel, both of which Bailey calls “very good football players.” Alston and Mangel each registered 51 and 47 tackles, respectively, as well this season.
Ultimately, Scotland’s first-round game against East Chapel Hill isn’t about making a playoff-opening statement. In Bailey’s eyes, it’s simply about getting a win and moving on to the next playoff opponent.
“It’s about winning and surviving from here on out,” he said. “We want to execute, get better and continue riding the momentum we’ve built in the last half of the season. Of course we want to win impressively and not lay an egg, but at the end of the night, I’d take a 2-0 win any day.”