ROCKINGHAM — Richmond and Scotland were picked to battle for the league championship, while Pinecrest was slotted to finish fourth by the Southeastern Conference coaches before season kicked off.
The Fighting Scots and the Raiders each earned three first-place votes in the preseason balloting. The only difference between the two teams was one of the coaches dropped Richmond to third, giving Scotland a 1-point edge to earn the moniker of conference favorite.
The Patriots, on the other hand, were tabbed to end the season behind Hoke in fourth, just four points in front of both Lumberton and Purnell Swett.
Turns out the SEC coaches were right about Scotland, which captured its third straight conference title. But they missed the mark on Richmond and Pinecrest. The Patriots were the surprise team this season, posting a 10-1 record and finishing second in the league with a 4-1 mark. The Raiders dropped their final two conference contests and were third in the SEC with a 3-2 record and 8-3 overall.
None of that matters at this point because the only thing which matters now is going 5-0 over the next five weeks to hoist the state championship trophy Dec. 14 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Heritage at Scotland
Records: Heritage 6-5. Scotland 11-0.
Coaches: Jason McGeorge, Heritage. Richard Bailey, Scotland.
Last Game: Hertiage guaranteed its postseason berth with a 56-33 victory over Broughton. Scotland captured its 15th straight SEC contest and won its third straight conference title with a 49-14 win over rival Richmond.
Tidbits: Scotland won the draw with Dudley to earn home-field advantage in the 4A East Region for the first four rounds of the playoffs. With a victory over Heritage, Scotland could set up a rematch with New Bern in the second round. Last season, the Bears ended the Fighting Scots’ run at back-to-back 4A championships with a 23-6 victory in the East Region title game. Heritage, in just its third year of playing varsity football, has made the playoffs the last two seasons.
Laney at Pinecrest
Records: Laney 6-4. Pinecrest 10-1.
Coaches: Greg Ditz, Laney. Chris Metzger, Pinecrest.
Last Game: Laney edged Ashley 27-26 to secure its berth in the playoffs. Pinecrest pulled away from Hoke County 49-28 to finish second in the SEC.
Tidbits: Pinecrest earned the No. 4 seed in the 4AA East Bracket and are guaranteed at least two home games in the playoffs. The Patriots won 10 regular season games for the first time in school history. Sophomore quarterback Christian Ledbetter has 16 rushing touchdowns and has passed for another 16 this year for Pinecrest. Junior quarterback Tariq Lane leads the Laney offensive attack with 744 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He has thrown for another 957 yards and eight scores.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.