LAURINBURG — After months of 7-on-7 scrimmages and workouts in the summer heat, football players in the Sandhills Athletic Conference finally had a chance to compete under the lights last Friday night.
Opening week turned out to be a good first step for some of the league’s eight teams. Few things seemed to go right for others.
As the teams look over film and prepare to take the field again this Friday, here’s how I see the SAC stacking up through week one.
1. Richmond (1-0)
The Raiders, who were picked to win the conference in the SAC coaches poll, got off to a hot start by dismantling Reagan 54-18. Jahiem Covington rushed for three touchdowns while quarterback Caleb Hood completed 12 of his 17 throws and tossed two touchdown passes.
Richmond will play on the road this week against Wake Forest, a team they struggled against during a 38-13 loss last season. The Raiders will then host Pine Forest before traveling to Charlotte to play against Matthews Butler. That challenging stretch of games will give the team an opportunity to prove how much of a contender it really is.
2. Seventy-First (1-0)
After spoiling Ernest King’s first game as Westover’s head coach with a 39-18 win against the Wolverines last week, the Falcons will try to carry their momentum into this week’s matchup against Cape Fear.
Running back Sincere Bates kicked his senior year off with a 136-yard performance, including one touchdown, against the Wolverines. Kore Prentice-Coles helped bolster the Falcons’ ground attack with 88 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
Receiver Camari Williams served as quarterback Kyler Davis’ primary target, tallying 113 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.
3. Pinecrest (1-0)
The Patriots made big plays when they needed to on the way to a 35-13 win over Laney last week. The senior backfield duo of Corey Patterson and Zaythan Hill both exceeded the 100-yard benchmark on the ground.
Hill ran for three touchdowns and 183 yards, while Patterson finished with one touchdown and 126 yards.
Hill also caught two passes for a total of 41 yards as senior quarterback Greg VanSteen struggled to find his rhythm. VanSteen finished 6-of-18 for 90 yards and threw one interception.
The Patriots will play at Gray’s Creek this week. The Bears defeated Parkwood 50-25 last Friday.
4. Jack Britt (0-1)
The Buccaneers had seven players record yardage on offense during their 24-14 loss to South View last Friday, and all of them were seniors. Receiver Khymani Vera tallied 64 yards and a touchdown on two catches, while running back Michael Matthews carried the ball seven times for 51 yards.
Like many other teams in the conference, Jack Britt is still looking for players to fill several key roles left by last season’s senior class. Friday’s loss was a decent step in that process, and the Buccaneers will have a chance to get in the win column with a game against Terry Sanford this week. The Bulldogs also come into the game winless after dropping their opener against Fuquay- Varina 36-30 last week.
5. Scotland (0-1)
The Fighting Scots found out earlier this week that they lost starting quarterback Bruce Wall and senior linebacker Josh McKenzie for the season due to ACL injuries. That news created more question marks for a young team that lost 32 seniors from last season’s squad.
Those setbacks also added to the sting of a 47-19 loss to Butler in Charlotte last weekend. Syheam McQueen, who rushed for 88 yards on 18 carries against the Bulldogs, had to play quarterback in the wildcat formation after Wall suffered a torn ACL in his right leg in the third quarter.
Sophomore Tyler Barfield also took some snaps late in the game for the Scots, but it remains to be seen how coach Richard Bailey and his staff will adjust the offense to accommodate Wall’s absence against Durham Hillside this weekend.
6. Lumberton (0-1)
Kelly Williamson’s tenure as head coach of the Pirates started with a 49-20 loss at Dillon on Friday, but Lumberton stayed competitive for most of the game and converted on some big plays, including an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by receiver Kwashek Breeden.
Quarterback Braylan Grice finished 14-of-31 with 147 yards, one interception and two touchdowns. Grice also registered an interception as a defensive back for the Pirates.
As the Pirates continue to adjust to playing under Williamson’s staff, the team will keep relying heavily on Grice as well as Breeden, who finished with 59 receiving yards and a touchdown on three receptions.
Lumberton hosts Westover on Friday.
7. Purnell Swett (0-1)
The Rams are looking to right the ship at home this week against Wilmington Ashley after losing 35-14 to Pine Forest last week.
Receiver Chandler Brayboy, the leader of Purnell Swett’s young roster, registered 56 yards of total offense and scored on a 26-yard run for the Rams last week. That was an unusually tame performance for Brayboy, who finished with 1,147 receiving yards last season.
8. Hoke (0-1)
The Bucks struggled to find the endzone during their 17-6 loss to Cary last week. After finishing 0-11 last season, Hoke enters its game against South View this week looking to turn things around.
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.