LAURINBURG — Since Richard Bailey joined the Scotland football program in 2012, the Scots have yet to lose a conference game.
In fact, the last time Scotland dropped a Southeastern Conference tilt was in 2010, when Richmond Senior won 31-21 in Rockingham.
While SEC play has yet to trip up the Scots during Bailey’s tenure, there is precedent for non-conference opponents besting them early in the season — in his first year at the helm, Scotland was defeated at home by New Hanover 21-16, and in 2014, Southern Durham entered the hostile confines of Pate Stadium and rallied in the final seconds to beat the Scots 34-28.
This season, Scotland has scheduled a difficult, road-heavy non-conference slate that features some of the premier schools in the state. Four of the Scots’ first six games will be played away from Laurinburg, though they will open the year at home against South View.
The Tigers visit Scotland County Aug. 21 in the season opener for both teams. The two schools matched up against one another last year in a game that saw that Scots take a 42-0 halftime lead en route to a 52-0 victory.
South View went on to finish 2-9 and 0-6 in the Mid-South Atlantic in Randy Ledford’s final season as head coach of the program. Ledford passed away in April after battling health issues.
Rodney Brewington is set to patrol the sidelines this year for the Tigers, returning to the school that he won a state championship with as a player in 1991.
Scotland then travels to Independence on Aug. 28 to play the Patriots in a marquee early-season matchup. Now coached by Justin Hardin, Independence finished 12-1 last year, winning the 4A Southwestern Conference with a 6-0 record before falling to Hough in the second round of the 4AA playoffs.
Hardin is the Patriots third head coach in seven seasons — former coach Joe Evans left his post in March.
Independence will serve as a measuring-stick game for the Scots. The Patriots are perennially regarded as one of the top programs in North Carolina, having won eight state championships.
A trip to Bennettsville on Sept. 4 looms after the Independence game, where the Scots are set to clash with Marlboro. Scotland bested Marlboro 51-13 in Laurinburg last season, but the Bulldogs ended the year strong, winning seven straight games at one point to advance to the quarterfinals of the South Carolina 3A playoffs.
Marlboro, coached by Dean Boyd, finished 8-6 overall and 4-1 in 3A Region VI play in 2014.
The Scots return home on Sept. 11 to play Jack Britt, a team they squeaked by 20-14 in Fayetteville last season. The Buccaneers, coached by Brian Rimpf, trudged through a disappointing 6-6 campaign and first-round exit from the 4A playoffs.
The Bucs were involved in a three-way tie for second place in the Mid-South Atlantic, finishing with a 4-2 mark.
Bailey was Jack Britt’s first football coach when the school opened in 2000, and he has said he still cherishes many of the memories made during his tenure. But that hasn’t stopped his new team from getting the better of his old one the last three years — Scotland beat Jack Britt 32-6 in 2012 in Bailey ’s first visit to the “Boneyard,” then won 52-21 in Laurinburg in 2013.
The Scots then head east down I-74 the following week to play New Hanover on Sept. 18. Scotland rolled to a 49-21 win in their meeting last season. The Wilcats finished 7-5 (5-1), finishing second in the Mideastern Conference behind conference champion Hoggard.
The Wildcats have a new coach this season after Kevin Motsinger resigned in January. Earl Smith, who was hired a month later, returns to the program where he served as coach in the early 2000s.
Scotland wraps up its non-conference schedule on Sep. 25 against Panther Creek, a team led by coach Sean Crocker. The Catamounts finished 11-3 (6-1) and shared a 4A Southwest Wake conference championship with Green Hope before falling to Garner Magnet in the quarterfinals of the 4AA playoffs.
The Raleigh-based school only won one game in Crocker’s first year, but have tallied 20 in two seasons since.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.