LAURINBURG — Unlike last season when Scotland was the only Southeastern Conference school still standing after the first round, three teams are alive and kicking this time around.
The Fighting Scots breezed into the second round following a 40-5 rout of East Chapel Hill. Scotland coach Richard Bailey had the luxury of resting the majority of his starters in the second half of the big win.
One week after blowing out Pinecrest in the regular-season finale, Hoke County was pushed to the limit in the opening round by the Patriots. The Bucks squeezed out a 24-14 victory over their SEC rival.
Richmond advanced following its 40-7 win over Cary. The Raiders, the top seed in the 4AA Mideast, scored two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters before putting in the reserves in the final period.
Besides Pinecrest, the only other SEC team to fail to advance out of the first round was Lumberton. The Pirates lost for the third time in four years in the postseason at Jack Britt, 28-14. It was Mike Brill’s final hurrah on the Lumberton sideline after six seasons.
Lee County at Scotland
Coaches: Burton Cates, Lee County. Richard Bailey, Scotland.
Records: Lee County 9-3 (No. 4 seed). Scotland 10-1 (No. 1 seed).
Last game: Lee County quarterback Chase Arrington ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns as well as passing for another two to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 57-35 win over Terry Sanford. Running back James Foushee tacked on another 177 on the ground and three scores. Scotland stormed out of the starting blocks in a big way against East Chapel Hill to begin its defense of its 4A championship. The Fighting Scots rolled up 212 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter en route to a 40-5 victory.
Key matchup: Lee County’s offense vs. Scotland’s defense. The Yellow Jackets are just as adept throwing the ball as they are running the football, plus they don’t mind mixing in some trick plays to keep the opposition honest. In its opening round victory against Terry Sanford, Lee County racked up 346 rushing yards. If Arrington can avoid turning the ball over, the Yellow Jackets may have a chance to pull off the upset. The Fighting Scots are fifth in scoring defense amongst 4A teams, allowing 9.7 points a game. After allowing the opposition to score in double figures in three of its last four games, Scotland stepped up and limited East Chapel Hill to just five points last week.
Hoke County at Jack Britt
Coaches: Milton Butts, Hoke County. Brian Rimpf, Jack Britt.
Records: Hoke County 10-2 (No. 3 seed). Jack Britt 10-2 (No. 2 seed).
Last game: Hoke running back Detrez Newsome rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bucks past Pinecrest 24-14 in the first round of the playoffs. The two schools battled each other in the regular-season finale, which Hoke won 35-7. Jack Britt weathered the storm of a first-quarter offensive outburst from Lumberton to pull away for a 28-14 victory. The Pirates led 14-7 entering the second quarter.
Key matchup: Newsome’s running vs. Jack Britt’s defense. The senior running back has already topped the 2,000-yard mark this season — running for 2,048 yards and 35 touchdowns. Newsome continues to be the focal point of the Bucks’ rushing attack, but quarterback Geoffrey Thompson has added another option for coach Milton Butts. The Buccaneers are allowing an average of 17.2 points a game this season. If Jack Britt wants to keep marching on, it will have to find a way to limit Newsome’s running room.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.