LAURINBURG — If there was one thing Scotland High football coach Richard Bailey wanted to emphasize to members of the local Rotary Club on Tuesday, it was that his varsity is young — but they will get a lot better.
“We are literally a junior varsity team playing against varsity opponents every Friday,” he said.
Bailey, who has been coach of the Fighting Scots since 2012 after 12 seasons as Jack Britt High’s first-ever football coach, told about 40 Rotarians that he has been impressed with the sense of community since coming here.
“I spent all those years at Jack Britt, living in Fayetteville, and I never knew my players’ parents or even my neighbor,” he said. “But here, it’s a lot different.”
Bailey quickly turned his focus to the 2018 season — one which he labeled as “very strange.”
“I don’t expect God to make things easy for me all the time, but this one is a real challenge,” he said. “We graduated 32 seniors and have just eight on the team now. At a 4A school, that’s unheard of.”
Bailey also listed other challenges he’s facing, such as having six new assistant coaches, only four seniors starting — one on offense and three on defense — an offensive coordinator who left one week before the season started for family reasons, a new offensive and defensive system, and a tough non-conference schedule because “nobody but the really good teams will play us.”
“I’ve spent as much time coaching the coaches as I have the players,” he said. “So everyone has had to work a lot harder.
“Now don’t get me wrong, all of this is good for down the road, but it’s not so good for this Friday,” he added. “We will be competitive and get better every week, but we used to be able to play bad and still win by 30.”
Bailey went on to tell the group he wants a certain type of player to wear the Scots uniform.
“I want to be proud of the team we put on the field,” he said. “I want kids who have good character. We all think it’s important to teach them the right thing to do and sometimes you have to leave a few behind to save the rest.
“Wins and losses are important,” he added, “but I doubt God will be worried about wins when I get to the pearly gates.”
Many in the group wanted to know about the rash of serious injuries that have befallen the Fighting Scots this season, which include three torn ACLs and at least one other knee injury.
“I’m getting blamed for all the ACL tears we’ve had,” Bailey said. “Some people say I’m working the kids too hard, others say I’m not working them hard enough. I just know we’re doing what we always do.”
He went on to talk about Zamir White, his former star runningback who is now at Georgia and tore his ACL during a recent practice with the Dawgs.
“Zamir was pretty down over the first 24 to 48 hours,” Bailey said. “But he’s past that now, and even got a message of encouragement from Hershel Walker. That’s pretty cool that a Hall of Famer took the time to reach out like that.”
In wrapping up Tuesday, Bailey was asked to look into his crystal ball and predict what the season will end up like.
“I go into every game thinking we will win, and I try to convince our players of that,” he said. “We’re going to approach every game like we are on our way to a conference title. One of the things these young players have to do is start believing in themselves.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]