RAEFORD — Sandhills Athletic Conference football coaches and players converged on Bayonet Golf Course at Puppy Creek on Sunday afternoon for the annual meeting with the media.
Scotland and Richmond were picked to win the conference title — as the media and coaches weren’t in agreement.
The Scots garnered six of the first-place votes submitted by the media, and three of the eight conference coaches selected Richard Bailey’s team as the pre-season favorite.
Richmond earned four first-place votes from the coaches, giving them a slight edge of the Scots for the first time in seven years. Seventy-First received one first-place vote in the media and coaches polls.
Scotland topped the media poll with 17 points, while Richmond was the runner-up with 19. Seventy-First secured third place with 26 points, followed by Jack Britt with 43. Pinecrest garnered fifth place with 49 points, Lumberton narrowly beat out Hoke for sixth with 67 points. Hoke finished in seventh place with 68 points while Purnell Swett rounded out the conference with 71.
In the coaches poll, Richmond earned four first-place votes to top the standings. Scotland was the runner-up with three first-place votes. Seventy-First garnered one first-place vote to secure third place. Coaches were not permitted to give a first-place vote to their own team this year. Jack Britt moved up one spot to fourth, knocking Pinecrest down to fifth. Lumberton again secured sixth place while Purnell Swett and Hoke rounded out the conference in seventh and eighth place in the coaches poll.
Scotland seniors Syheam “Smiley” McQueen and Tyshoun Thomas felt slighted being picked behind arch-rival Richmond.
“It’s motivation,” said Thomas. “We’re being overlooked because we lost a lot of seniors, so we don’t have much experience, but the eight of us seniors can get it done.”
McQueen said in order for this year’s team to be successful there has to be leadership and people willing to work hard.
“We’re ready to compete as a team,” said McQueen.
Scotland will face Butler, a team that played for the 4AA state championship last season, to kick off their season next Saturday. McQueen and Thomas are looking at that game as a measuring stick to see how far they’re progressed — and how far they still have to go.
“As our first game, win or lose, we have to come back even harder for our second game,” said McQueen.
Scotland won its seventh consecutive conference title last season and haven’t lost a conference game — Southeastern, Sandhills Athletic or otherwise — since 2010, sporting a 37-0 record against conference opponents.
The Scots finished 12-2 overall, losing to Harding University in the 4A state championship, 30-22.
“Our seniors should feel slighted, it’s been since my first year that we weren’t picked first,” Bailey said. “Six consecutive years without a conference loss. We don’t plan on that changing, despite polls or the expectations of others. It’s going to take a lot of work, we have a very young group, a lot of new faces and coaches, I feel like this is a team that will be markedly better in October or November than we are in August.”
Richmond found themselves playing second fiddle to Scotland — for the eighth season in a row — with a 5-2 conference record. The Raiders’ other loss came against Jack Britt. Second-year head coach Bryan Till will rely on sophomore quarterback Caleb Hood to lead his team.
Seventy-First assumed the three spot in the conference with a 5-2 record — its only losses coming against Scotland and Richmond.
After losing their starting quarterback to a baseball scholarship, Pinecrest used 2017 as a rebuilding year, finishing 7-4 overall and 4-3 in conference.
Jack Britt, led by new head coach Brian Randolph, finished the conference season strong with a 4-3 record for fifth place.
Under the direction of Jon Sherman, Purnell Swett finished the season 5-6 overall and 2-5 in SAC-8 play. The Rams advanced to the 4A playoffs but lost to Heritage in the first round.
Lumberton narrowly beat Hoke to keep from a winless conference record to finish seventh at 1-6 and 2-9 overall. The Pirates opted to make a coaching change, firing Mike Setzer and replacing him with Kelly Williamson, former head coach at West Brunswick.
Hoke County resumed its place at the bottom of the conference with zero wins in 2017. The win-less season resulted in the firing of second-year coach David Jorgensen and the hiring of former NFL player George Smalls.
The Scots will open their 2018 season next Saturday in Charlotte against David W. Butler at 5 p.m.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]