RAEFORD — Five of the six Southeastern Conference schools are still alive to play another day.
Last season, all six teams qualified for the state playoffs, but only one — Scotland — survived the first round.
This year only four schools will have the chance to continue its march to the state tournament because Hoke County and Pinecrest will square off tonight in Raeford. Lumberton will travel to Jack Britt, Richmond will play host to Cary, while Scotland welcomes East Chapel Hill to Pate Stadium.
The Bucks and Patriots will meet for the second time in seven days. Last week, Detrez Newsome rushed for a game-high 162 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries leading Hoke to a 35-7 win.
While Newsome was sparking his team’s offense, Pinecrest was forced to play the majority of the the contest without its star — Dwayne Simpson. The senior quarterback was injured on the Patriots’ second possession and saw spot action the rest of the way. Simpson managed just four rushing attempts and his status for the rematch is unknown.
Pinecrest at Hoke County
Coaches: Chris Metzger, Pinecrest. Milton Butts, Hoke County.
Records: Pinecrest 5-6 (No. 6 seed). Hoke County 9-2 (No. 3 seed)
Last game: Hoke County opened the contest with Jamal Harris’ 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and never looked back to knock off Pinecrest 35-7 and finish third in the Southeastern Conference. The win also gave the Bucks the No. 3 seed in the 4AA Midwest pod, while the Patriots grabbed the sixth seed.
Key matchup: Detrez Newsome vs. Dwayne Simpson. Detrez Newsome won the battle last week by default because of Dwayne Simpson’s abdominal injury. Newsome ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bucks. Simpson sat out the majority of the game and was limited to four carries. The rest of the Patriots were unable to carry the load on the ground is Simpson’s absence, finishing the contest with minus-two yards rushing and just five first downs. If Simpson is unable to play, the rematch could be a repeat of last week’s result.
East Chapel Hill at Scotland
Coaches: Bill Renner, East Chapel Hill. Richard Bailey, Scotland.
Records: East Chapel Hill 5-5 (No. 8 seed). Scotland 9-1 (No. 1 seed).
Last game: East Chapel Hill needed a victory against Person County to ensure itself a spot in the 4A playoffs for the first time in school history. Colby Owens scored the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard run with 46 seconds left in the game to lift the Wildcats past the Rockets 27-20. Scotland’s Jaylend Ratliffe sprinted 25 yards right through the heart of the Richmond Senior defense to give the Fighting Scots their second straight win over the Raiders and more importantly their second consecutive SEC title.
Key matchup: East Chapel Hill’s passing attack vs. Scotland’s defense. The Wildcats want to air it out against their opposition. So far this season, East Chapel Hill has nearly three times as many yards passing as it does rushing. The Wildcats have relied on the play of freshman quarterback Connor Stough the last two weeks. Against Person County, Stough ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in the must-win game. Scotland is ranked fifth in the state amongst 4A teams in scoring defense allowing 102 points on the season. The Fighting Scots have surrendered 10 or more points in five games, but three of those have come in the last five weeks.
Lumberton at Jack Britt
Coaches: Mike Brill, Lumberton. Brian Rimpf, Jack Britt.
Records: Lumberton 5-5 (No. 7 seed). Jack Britt 9-2 (No. 2 seed).
Last game: Lumberton had its backs against the wall if it wanted to extend coach Mike Brill’s tenure on the Pirate sideline for at least one more game. The Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak to their in-county rival Purnell Swett in a big way with a 42-18 victory. The win helped Lumberton earn a wild-card berth in Brill’s final season. Jack Britt used Eric Carter’s two rushing touchdowns to slip past Pine Forest 14-7. The Buccaneers needed the win to finish second in the Mid-South Conference and grab the second seed in the 4AA Midwest pod.
Key matchup: Lumberton’s will vs. Jack Britt’s might. Mike Brill would hate to walk away after one week in the playoffs, but that is a strong possibility as his Pirates return to Fayetteville to face Jack Britt for the second time this season. In Week 2, the Buccaneers cruised to a 27-0 win. The two schools have met twice in the playoffs in the last three years with Jack Britt winning both contests by at least 14 points — 28-14 in ‘09 and 28-13 in ‘10.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.