LAURINBURG — Last season the Southeastern Conference proved it may have been the toughest football league from top to bottom in the state as all six schools advanced to the postseason.
When the dust settled after the first round, only one team remained alive — Scotland.
The Fighting Scots would continue to wave the SEC’s flag all the way to the 4A state championship under Chip Williams. After the season, Williams resigned and joined his son’s staff in Jacksonville.
Scotland didn’t miss a beat with Williams’ replacement and hired Jack Britt’s Richard Bailey to defend the school’s first football title.
After hours of practice under the hot Carolina sun, the 2012 season begins.
Seventy-First at Scotland
Coaches: Bob Paroli, Seventy-First. Richard Bailey, Scotland.
2011 records: Seventy-First 4-7. Scotland 15-0.
Last game: Like their Mid-South Conference brethren Cape Fear, Seventy-First struggled during the early part of the season, losing five of its first six games. The Falcons recovered to reel off three victories in their final four contests to finish tied for second in the league with the Colts. Seventy-First qualified for the state 4A playoffs, where it lost to Fuquay-Varina in the first round, 29-14. Former Scotland coach Chip Williams took his lumps for two seasons building towards this moment — winning a state title. The Fighting Scots routed Porter Ridge 42-16 to capture the program’s first football championship.
Key matchup: Richard Bailey vs. the Scotland expectations. When Richard Bailey accepted the Scotland job, many observers questioned why he would leave a Jack Britt program on the verge of breaking through and winning its first state football title for a school which lost the majority of its championship team. Bailey saw it as a challenge and believes the pieces are there at Scotland to not only challenge Richmond for the SEC title, but defend its state title.
Lumberton at Cape Fear
Coaches: Mike Brill, Lumberton. Bryan Till, Cape Fear.
2011 records: Lumberton 7-4. Cape Fear 6-7.
Last game: Lumberton limped into the playoffs last season having lost three games in a row to Richmond, Scotland and Purnell Swett. The slump continued for the Pirates in the postseason as Cary advanced with a 27-7 victory. The Colts struggled during their nonconference schedule posting a 1-4 record and their lone win coming by one point against a 2-9 Westover team. During Mid-South Conference action, Cape Fear caught fire and finished tied for second with Seventy-First. The Colts pulled off a minor upset in the first round of the 4A playoffs by downing West Johnston before falling to New Bern the next week.
Key matchup: Lumberton’s Wing-T vs. Cape Fear’s defense. Before Bryan Till took over at Cape Fear, this contest featured the Wing-T attack from both teams. Now, Lumberton is about the only team in the area that runs the Wing-T exclusively. The Colts struggled to stop the Pirates last season, losing 31-7.
Ashley at Hoke County
Coaches: Tom Eanes, Ashley. Milton Butts, Hoke.
2011 records: Ashley 2-8. Hoke 6-6.
Last game: It was a tough first season on the Ashley sideline for Tom Eanes. The former Pender County coach watched as his Screaming Eagles lost the last six games of the year, including a 41-14 loss in the season finale. Hoke County may have been the final team to slip into the playoffs last season. The Bucks opened SEC play on a high note beating Richmond for the first time in 35 tries, but lost their last four league contests. Hoke put a scare in Butler before succumbing 42-20 in the opening round of the playoffs.
Key matchup: Hoke’s Detrez Newsome vs. Ashley’s defense. Last season Hoke was able to use David Walrath’s arm at quarterback to get defenses to stop keying on Newsome. Until Walrath was injured and forced Hoke coach Milton Butts to go to his backup, the Bucks were successful in their gameplan. Without Walrath, the Bucks will lean on Newcome even more.
Pinecrest at Jack Britt
Coaches: Chris Metzger, Pinecrest. Brian Rimpf, Jack Britt.
2011 records: Pinecrest 5-7. Jack Britt 11-3.
Last game: It was a season of a handful of near misses for the Patriots. Pinecrest hung tough in several games and if it wasn’t for late miscues in those contests, the Patriots could have ended up near the top of the SEC standings. Even in the playoffs, Pinecrest remained in the game against the eventual 4AA champs, Greensboro Page. The Buccaneers continued their postseason excellence under former coach Richard Bailey advancing to the semifinals before being eliminated by Garner 34-27.
Key matchup: New coach Brian Rimpf vs. Jack Britt’s expectations. Even though Metzger as built Pinecrest into a solid program which battles its opposition to the end week-in and week-out, this is a perfect matchup for Rimpf to begin his tenure at Jack Britt. The Patriots lost the majority of their offense and defense from a year ago and will struggle in the beginning of the season to adapt to the varsity level. A first-year coach, Rimpf takes over a Jack Britt which is one of the favorites to win a state title this fall.
Purnell Swett at Pine Forest
Coaches: Mark Heil, Purnell Swett. Bill Sochovka, Pine Forest.
2011 records: Purnell Swett 5-6. Pine Forest 1-10.
Last game: Purnell Swett ended its season with a heartbreaking loss in Durham for the third straight year. The Rams led Hillside with seconds remaining when the home team completed a game-tying Hail Mary pass for a touchdown to send the game into overtime. The Hornets advanced to the second round to face Scotland when Khris Francis scampered 25 yards for the winning score. Pine Forest never found a rhythm on offense or defense last season. The Trojans were blanked in their season finale by Jack Britt 49-0.
Key matchup: Purnell Swett offense vs. the ghost of its departed players. Mark Heil has a large task in front of him of replacing Chase Armstrong, Juwan Jones and Travon Clark from his high-powered offense. Jones was not only a tough matchup as a wide receiver, he was just as effective on the other side of the ball, earning Defensive Player of the Year honors from The Robesonian. As a junior, Clark was named as The Robesonian’s Offensive Player of the Year. If Heil can find suitable replacements, the Rams should be at contention to earn a playoff berth.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org