LAURINBURG — Survive and advance is Fighting Scots head coach Richard Bailey mentality heading into this Friday’s game against Lumberton.
The Scots skipper was less than thrilled with his team’s performance last week against Pinecrest, despite the 47-28 victory.
“This time of year you’re just trying to survive and advance, so even though I wasn’t 100 percent pleased you just hope your kids come back humbled and more focused,” he said. “Offensively we didn’t block as well, but we did some good things. We showed people we can throw the ball if we need to. Defensively we did good early, we got three stops but I think there is a tendency when we’re up 28-0 for even the defense to exhale and the effort level went down a little bit.”
After addressing the issues from last week’s game, Bailey and his staff shift focus to Lumberton and finding a way to stay healthy and sink the Pirates. Bailey was adamant that the Pirates are a better team than last year, but said Lumberton have a tendency to be very unpredictable.
“They are a Jekyll and Hyde team — you never know which one you’re going to get — some games Lumberton plays great defense other games it’s awful. Their offensive is the same way,” Bailey said.
Lumberton enters Friday’s game with a 2-7 overall record and 1-4 in SAC-8 play. Offensively they are led by junior quarterback Braylan Grice, a player the Scots will have to keep a close eye on because in order to beat Lumberton you have to control Grice.
The Pirates junior field general has 87 passes for 1,518 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. Grice also leads the Pirates in rushing with 127 carries for 815 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lumberton’s leading receivers is No. 10 Kwashek Breeden who has 32 catches for 706 yards and five touchdowns.
Lumberton’s one conference win came against Hoke in Week 6 with a 42-24 trouncing of the Bucks. The Pirates nearly pulled off upsets against Jack Britt and Pinecrest but lost those games late in the second half.
The Pirates are coming off a 49-27 loss to Richmond but Bailey knows that one and two wins teams are the most dangerous for his team that is vying for a conference title.
“We have to be ready to play and I’ve told our kids from day one to be conference champions we have to be undefeated — that’s the bottom line,” Bailey said. “One game at a time, that’s how we’re preparing.”
After winning 36 conference games in a row continuing to preach that message and have the players listen.
“You worry it becomes white noise to the kids, it becomes this is what coach Bailey says every week and we go out there and beat people,” Bailey said. “We don’t change no matter who we’re playing, we prepare the same way every week because if you slip up this week, next week doesn’t matter.”
As the Scots close in on the end of the regular season they are more banged up than Bailey hoped. Offensive lineman Garrett Beach listed as a game-time decision as well as center Hunter Sheppard. Senior Trey Dixon is also questionable to return with an ankle injury.
Junior running back Shyeam “Smiley” McQueen has been cleared and returned to practice this week, but Bailey said the coaching staff will decide on Friday how much or if McQueen will play.
“Smiley could see some action Friday, we may keep him out another week just for precautionary reasons,” said Bailey. “He wants to play badly, but there is a reason those decisions are left up to coaches and trainers.”
In terms of the conference title race, the Scots are still undefeated at 5-0 while Jack Britt, Seventy-First and Richmond are right on their heels at 4-1. Pinecrest improved to 3-2 while Lumberton fell to 1-4, Purnell and Hoke each remain win less at 0-5.
So the possible scenarios are endless depending on the results of this week’s games. If the Scots lose to Lumberton and Pinecrest and Richmond win then next week’s rivalry game between Scotland and Richmond would decide the conference champion. If Richmond were to beat Scotland then the Raiders and the Scots would share the first SAC-8 title.
“I’m selfish I don’t want to share,” said Bailey. “We want to be undisputed champions in the new league.”
The Fighting Scots and Lumberton will kick off Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Lumberton.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.