SOUTHERN PINES — While the Southeastern Conference championship is being played out 27 miles to the south, the result of Hoke County-Pinecrest clash is just as important.
The winner will finish third in the conference and may have an outside chance at a first-round home game in the state playoffs. The loser of the contest will grab the fourth and final automatic bid and faces an uphill battle in its march towards a state championship.
Even though much of the focus this week has been in either Rockingham or Southern Pines, but the Lumberton-Purnell Swett game also carries some postseason implications. The Pirates need to beat the Rams to earn their fifth win on the season and remain in the conversation to grab a wild-card berth. A loss to their in-county rivals will all but end their postseason dreams.
Hoke County at Pinecrest
Coaches: Milton Butts, Hoke County. Chris Metzger, Pinecrest.
Records: Hoke County 8-2, 2-2. Pinecrest 5-5, 2-2.
Last game: Hoke County locked down the conference’s final automatic playoff berth with its 34-14 win over Purnell Swett. Running back Detrez Newsome added to his eye-popping statistics with another two rushing touchdowns against the Rams. Newsome wasn’t the lone offensive star as quarterback Geoffrey Thompson ran for three scores of his own. Pinecrest was marching towards a possible game-tying or winning drive in the final moments against Richmond until Robert Williams returned a Dwayne Simpson interception 55 yards for a touchdown to push the Raiders to a 27-18 victory.
Key matchup: Detrez Newsome vs. Dwayne Simpson. For the majority of the season, Hoke has relied on the legs of Detrez Newsome. The senior has been up to the task, leading the Bucks to an 8-2 record and a spot in next week’s state playoffs. Last week, Newsome received help from quarterback Geoffrey Thompson, who scored three touchdowns. While Thompson is able to relieve a bit of Newsome’s load, Hoke’s ability to beat Pinecrest and grab the SEC’s No. 3 seed will depend on its running back. Pinecrest counts on Simpson to drive the offense. Simpson single-handedly kept the Patriots in the game with the Raiders, running for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned a kick 74 yards to set up his second score of the game.
Purnell Swett at Lumberton
Coaches: Mark Heil, Purnell Swett. Mike Brill, Lumberton.
Records: Purnell Swett 2-7, 0-4. Lumberton 4-5, 0-4.
Last game: Purnell Swett trailed Hoke County 28-0 at halftime before scoring its first offensive touchdown in conference play. Quarterback Josh Brooks rushed for a 2-yard score and connected with Tyler Manor for a 15-yard touchdown reception. Lumberton dropped its fourth straight SEC game, falling to Scotland 35-7. The Pirates are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs after opening their season 4-1.
Key matchup: Purnell Swett’s offense vs. Lumberton’s offense. What a difference a year makes. Purnell Swett was third in the SEC in scoring offense last season, but is at the bottom this year. The Rams have scored just 21 points in four conference games, an average of 5.2 points a game and one of the team’s touchdowns came on a fumble return against Pinecrest. The only bright spot for the Rams was the play of quarterback Josh Brooks who ran for a score and threw for another last week against Hoke County. Lumberton has fared a little better on offense, but not much. The Pirates have scored 31 points, an average of 7.4 points in their four SEC contests. Lumberton coach Mike Brill hopes his team is at or near full strength to try to keep its faint playoff hopes alive.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.