LUMBERTON — Coaches from around the state have said the Southeastern Conference from top to bottom is arguably the toughest 4A league.
All six schools qualified for the postseason last season, but following Week 1, the SEC will be hard-pressed to duplicate that success this year.
The SEC posted a 4-2 mark but two teams — Pinecrest and Purnell Swett — struggled to replace departed seniors on offense. The other conference members showed why it could be a dogfight for the regular season crown once league play begins on Sept. 28.
Lumberton at Jack Britt
Coaches: Mike Brill, Lumberton. Brian Rimpf, Jack Britt.
Records: Lumberton 1-0. Jack Britt 1-0.
Last game: Senior running back Daniel Robinson rushed for 265 yards and four touchdowns to lead Lumberton to a 27-3 victory over Cape Fear. The game was postponed because of weather and completed on Saturday. Jack Britt opened the Brian Rimpf era by scoring on its first two possessions and scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter to pull away for a 34-15 win.
Key matchup: Jack Britt’s revenge vs. Lumberton. The Pirates played one of their best all-around games last season in pulling off a 21-14 upset in overtime at home. Lumberton rallied from an eight-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to force overtime before pulling out the win. Even though coach Richard Bailey is now at Scotland, current Buccaneers like Mark McRae and Jalen McDaniel remember the loss like it was yesterday. McDonald had a chance to score a touchdown in overtime but was stopped inches short of the goal line.
New Hanover at Scotland
Coaches: Kevin Motsinger, New Hanover. Richard Bailey, Scotland.
Records: New Hanover 1-0. Scotland 1-0.
Last game: Senior running back Montrell Baldwin returned from an injury which shorten his junior season to run for 162 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in three quarters of play. Baldwin’s play helped lead the Wildcats to a 67-6 victory over Goldsboro. Scotland began defense of its 4A state title with a 35-6 victory over Seventy-First in Richard Bailey’s first game on the Fighting Scots’ sideline. Jaylend Ratliffe accounted for 286 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in the win.
Key matchup: New Hanover rushing attack vs. Scotland’s defense. The Wildcats rushed for 383 yards and five players found the end zone in the season-opening win. In addition to Baldwin, Ramone Simpson rambled for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 14 touches. The Fighting Scots did a good job stuffing the Seventy-First rushing attack, limiting the Falcons to 136 yards and one score.
Hoke County at South View
Coaches: Milton Butts, Hoke County. Randy Ledford, South View.
Records: Hoke County 1-0. South View 0-1.
Last game: Running back Detrez Newsome ran for 396 yards and six touchdowns on 20 carries to lead Hoke County to a 48-30 win over Ashley. Newsome had 390 yards and five scores at halftime. Douglas Byrd broke open a close game by scoring the final 21 points of the game to pull away from South View for a 41-14 victory.
Key matchup: Newsome vs. South View’s rush defense. As a sophomore Newsome burst onto the scene by racking up 200-plus rushing contests during Southeastern Conference play. Last season, Newsome’s workload was lighten when quarterback David Walrath stepped up and gave the Bucks another option on offense. With Walrath’s graduation, Newsome will once again be the focus on the Bucks’ attack. After running for nearly 400 yards against Ashley in the opener, Newsome is prepared to shoulder the load. South View surrendered five rushing touchdowns to Douglas Byrd in Week 1.
Western Harnett at Purnell Swett
Coaches: Larry Brock, Western Harnett. Mark Heil, Purnell Swett.
Records: Western Harnett 1-0. Purnell Swett 0-1.
Last game: Western Harnett rolled past South Robeson, 26-6, as Laron Gilchrist rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles racked up more than 200 yards on the ground against the Mustangs. Purnell Swett struggled offensively in its season opener with Pine Forest. The Rams committed seven turnovers and recorded just two first downs in a 19-6 loss.
Key matchup: Purnell Swett offense vs. Western Harnett defense. In its 53-7 win over Western Harnett last season, Purnell Swett had 350 yards of offense and 34 points in the first half. The difference was that Rams team featured star players like Chase Armstrong, Travon Clark and Juwon Jones. Purnell Swett coach Mark Heil is still searching for their replacements but battling a team coming off a 3-8 mark a season ago could be what the doctor ordered for the Rams.
Overhills at Pinecrest
Coaches: Tim Karrs, Overhills. Chris Metzger, Pinecrest.
Records: Overhills 0-1. Pinecrest 0-1.
Last game: Overhills let a 14-point advantage slip away in a 31-26 loss to E.E. Smith in its season opener. The bright spot for the Jaguars was wide receiver Donnie Alexander. The senoir caught three passes, all for touchdowns in the loss. The Patriots turned the ball over three times and totaled 140 yards in penalties in a 34-15 loss at Jack Britt.
Key matchup: Donnie Alexander vs. Pinecrest’s defense. The senior was a three-way threat for Overhills in its season-opening loss to E.E. Smith. Alexander rushed 13 times for 79, caught three passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, Alexander returned a kickoff 72 yards. In the game, Alexander totaled more than 270 yards of offense. Pinecrest was doing a good job of bottling up Jack Britt’s offensive weapons until the Buccaneers exploded for 20 unanswered points in the second quarter.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com