With a talented quarterback and running back tandem, a 35 points-per-game average and a coaching staff filled to the brim with experience, the 9-2 Lee County Yellow Jackets are anything but an easy opponent for the Fighting Scots.
Fresh off their 40-5 rout of East Chapel Hill in last week’s opening round 4A playoff game, the Fighting Scots will face a Yellow Jackets’ team that prides itself on putting up points in bunches, as Scotland has for the majority of the season.
Only one question remains: Who will blink first?
“There a much better football team than East Chapel Hill, there’s not doubt about it,” said Scotland coach Richard Bailey. “They are a well-balanced team that’s pretty much good at everything, but offense is their strongest quality. It’ll be two good offenses out there, so something will have to give.”
Like most teams poised for a postseason run, Lee County appears to be a team that is firing on all cylinders when it matters most.
Last week in their first round matchup against a solid Terry Sanford squad, the Yellow Jackets (who are seeded seventh overall in the 4A state playoffs) posted their highest point total of the year to best the Bulldogs 57-35.
The team is led by senior signal-caller Chase Arrington, a dual-threat QB that Bailey says is “as good as any quarterback we’ve faced all year.” Flanked by an offensive line that features three linemen that are 6’4”, 265+ pounds in size, Arrington has demonstrated the ability to both throw and run the football in equal measure.
Along with running back and collegiate prospect James Foushee, the Yellow Jackets have been a team that attacks opponents with a well-balanced offensive scheme, a rarity in run-heavy high school offenses.
“They run and pass about 50/50, which is something that you hardly see at this level,” Bailey said. “They’re a spread offense that likes to utilize a lot of screen passes and misdirection, which means that we will have to be assignment-sound and not bite on their trick plays.”
As good as the 9-2 Yellow Jackets have been offensively this year, the team’s inability to stop an aggressive rushing attack on defense might be considered a potential weakness. One of Lee County’s two regular seasons losses came against Richmond in week two, a 55-28 defeat that saw the Yellow Jackets fall apart in the second half of regulation after heading into halftime tied at 21 points with the Raiders.
“Teams have had success running the ball against them,” Bailey said. “We’re a triple option offense and Richmond does a lot of the same stuff we do, and they were able to move the football. But make no mistake, like all good teams that are well-coached, they have done nothing but get better since the second week of the season.”
Ultimately, Bailey believes that any pre-game predictions can be thrown out of the window, and that the game could very well be decided by the things that have spelled success or failure for championship-caliber teams of year’s past.
“You never know what to expect in games like this, you really don’t,” Bailey said. “When we played New Hanover, we expected to face a team that wanted to throw the football, and instead they ran it right at us. Like every playoff game, I expect turnovers, penalties and field position to play a big hand in this one.”