LAURINBURG — Senior Joseph “Poppa” McKoy knows that Scotland’s running backs will shoulder more responsibilities now that injured starting quarterback Bruce Wall is out for the season.
But he believes in the Fighting Scots’ backup quarterbacks.
“I feel like we’re back to last year with our running game, but Tyler (Barfield) and Mandrell (Johnson) can step up and do the same thing that Bruce did,” McKoy said.
Barfield and Johnson were tasked with taking snaps under center for the Scots after the team announced on Tuesday that Wall will miss the remainder of his junior year with a torn ACL in his right leg.
McKoy, along with with classmate Syheam “Smiley” McQueen, quickly had to help the team recover from the combined effects of losing Wall and suffering a 47-19 loss to Matthews Butler in Charlotte on opening weekend.
“You’ve got to keep your head focused,” McQueen said. “You can’t just focus on one loss. You’ve got to learn from what you did in the last game.”
Both of the runningbacks said they’re confident in Wall’s ability to recover and make a comeback next season.
“I know he’ll work through his injuries to be able to come back, because I know he loves football,” McQueen said.
“It hurt, but I know that injuries happen in football,” McKoy said. “It’s always next man up.”
McKoy, McQueen and Wall were significant contributors for the Scots as they advanced to the state championship game last season. McQueen and McKoy were the team’s third and fourth-leading rushers, respectively, and Wall was the team’s leading receiver with 267 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
They played alongside senior Zamir White, the nation’s top runningback prospect at the time. White rushed for 2,086 yards and 34 touchdowns in his final season with the Scots.
White’s senior year ended prematurely when he tore his right ACL, a significant setback as he prepared to start his college career at the University of Georgia.
White rehabbed over the summer until he was in condition to practice with the team. Around the time of Saturday’s game against Butler, the Scots learned that White’s career had hit another roadblock.
White tore the ACL in his left leg during a scrimmage with the Bulldogs, putting an end to his season before it began.
That news hit his former teammates at Scotland hard after they left American Legion Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“I hate to see that,” McKoy said. “I would love to see him run up and down that sideline every Saturday.
“I loved playing behind him. He taught me everything. He knows I love him.”
McQueen said he isn’t worried about how White will handle the injury.
“He’ll work hard as always,” McQueen said. “Classic Zamir.”
Despite all of the adversity the program has faced early in the season, Scotland’s senior running backs are focused on getting the Scots back to their winning ways.
“I feel that everything’s better now,” McKoy said. “I feel like everybody’s doing their job, and we’re going to pull through.”
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.