After watching the rest of its Southeastern Conference brethren get bounced out in the first round of the state playoffs, Scotland County knew it was going to be the flag bearer for the conference the rest of the way in the postseason.
And right now, the Fighting Scots are enjoying the opportunity to shine in the spotlight.
Usually this time of year, Scotland County is watching from the sidelines as its rival to the west, Richmond Senior, makes a deep run in the playoffs. Not this time. Instead, the Raiders are the ones who are having to purchase tickets to see the Fighting Scots play.
If the first two games are any indication, Scotland County may be making plans for a visit to BB&T Field on the Wake Forest campus for a state championship showdown with the winner from the West bracket.
Before any of those reservations can be etched in stone, the Fighting Scots have a huge obstacle facing them Friday — the defending 4A champion, Hillside.
The Hornets lost a once in a lifetime talent in Vad Lee to graduation last year and have been relying on the legs of Khris Francis this season. Francis has rushed for an eye-popping 2,149 yards and 28 touchdowns in leading Hillside to an 11-1 mark and the third round of the 4A playoffs. Hillside’s lone loss came to the No. 1 seed in the East pod, New Bern, in the season opener.
During their run to the title last year, the Hornets had an overpowering offense and one of the best defenses in the state. Hillside averaged 40 points a game, while surrendering 9.25. This year is very similar, the Hornets are still scoring at a 37.1 point per game clip and are allowing 14.4 points this season.
For Hillside to get past Scotland County and take another step towards defending its championship, it will need both sides of the ball firing on all cylinders. The Fighting Scots have scored 55 points in both of their playoff victories and are giving up an average of 10.5 per game.
The Scotland County offense led by Kwashaun Quick scored on its first five possessions against Southeast Guilford last week en route to a 55-8 victory. As strong as Quick and company have been on offense, the defense may be even better.
The speed on the defensive side of the ball is amazing and even coach Chip Williams has a hard time believing how quick his unit is at times.
“I haven’t seen a team that can run to the outside on us yet,” Williams said after the win over Southeast Guilford. “We are able to run down our mistakes with our secondary or with the linebackers.”
Williams and his Fighting Scots have to hope there aren’t many mistakes to chase down Friday against the defending champs, otherwise it will be three-and-out for Scotland County.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org