LAURINBURG — The Fighting Scots traveled to Hoggard on Wednesday to participate in a large-scale 7-on-7 tournament.
Head coach Richard Bailey felt the two-hour drive to Wilmington was worth it based on the progress his team made. The Scots played five “games” taking on host school Hoggard, New Hanover, South Columbus, Pender and Croatan.
“We did much better than last week at Dillon. That’s what you want to see is that progression,” said Bailey. “We made a lot less mental mistakes and we competed pretty hard. Croatan, Pender and South Columbus are smaller schools and we should look better than them. New Hanover won the state championship last season and Hoggard played us in the Eastern finals so those two teams were very good.”
Croatan and South Columbus are both 2A schools and Pender is a 1A program. New Hanover is a 3A team that won the state championship last season with a 15-1 record. Hoggard lost to Scotland in overtime in the 4A Eastern finals.
All five programs were successful and Bailey was pleased his young squad was able to keep pace with them.
”We weren’t keeping score, but if we had been we would have held our own or won,” he said. “Hoggard has a wide receiver that’s going to NC State and we had some trouble with him, but the rest of their cats looked like our cats.”
Bailey doesn’t put much stock in the results of 7-on-7 scrimmages, but has been using them this season to evaluate the progress of his under experienced secondary.
“We looked much better in the secondary, big improvements over last week,” he said. “Against Dillon we were giving up touchdowns right and left. This time we made people earn them. We had a few broken coverages, but that’s going to happen because you haven’t game planned so your heads get spinning seeing things you haven’t seen. Our kids did better knowing what they’re supposed to do. It wasn’t perfect, it was better.”
On the offensive side, Bailey saw steady improvement from a trio of sophomore wide receivers — Trey Chavis, Darius Dockery and Mandrell Johnson.
“Trey Chavis really stood out to me, he had his best day,” said Bailey. “Mandrell Johnson did some good things along with Darius Dockery. All three are sophomores and that excites me. We have some good young pieces, same on defense, a bunch of sophomores and juniors playing.”
Under center, Bailey is sticking with junior quarterback Bruce Wall with sophomore Tyler Barfield as back-up and starting JV quarterback. The Scots skippers thinks fans will be impressed that Wall is actually a throwing quarterback more than a running one.
“There is going to be a notion that Bruce isn’t a passer, but he can throw the ball quiet well. He has good arm strength but he’s also a dynamic runner. He throws the ball as accurately as any of the quarterbacks we’ve had the last four or five years,” Bailey said.
The Scots will have the next 10 days off with next week being the first of two mandatory dead periods imposed by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
Despite Bailey encouraging his players to get out and be active during the hiatus, he knows what’s going to happen.
“They are going to stay in their rooms and play Fortnite. The more video games that come out, the worse shape kids come to us in, as far as conditioning. It’s frustrating because you get them into decent shape, then we have a dead week, then we have one week then we have a dead week again. Then you have to start over and the state give us all of nine days before we start playing games,” he said.
The first dead period begins on Sunday, July 1 and runs through July 8. The Scots will return to practice for four days before the second dead period begins on July 15. Practices resume July 23 before the first official day of practice begins on July 30.
Once the 2018 season begins, the Scots will have eight practices before traveling to Pine Forest for a scrimmage against Cape Fear — the team that knocked the Scots out of the 4A playoffs in 2016.
“It happens fast,” Bailey said. “It would be beneficial for them to be able to come out during the dead periods and get some work in, but the state is concerned with safety and kids dying of heat exhaustion.”
Ten days after their first scrimmage, the Scots open the season in Charlotte on Saturday, Aug. 18 against Butler.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]