Next week, the Sandhills Athletic Conference kicks off its inaugural football season with an interesting lineup of games that could quickly influence how things play out in the conference’s final standings.
And although the four non-conference games played, with the exception of Scotland, counts against teams’ overall record, how they fare in SAC play counts towards being crowned conference champion — which means an automatic playoff bid.
Richmond (2-2) opens conference play with a home game against Purnell Swett (3-1).
The Raiders have yet to win at home but will look to do so against a team they haven’t lost to in 23 years. They were one of the six conference teams who had a bye in Week 5, using the time off to “heal up” after playing two games in five days.
The Rams, on the other hand, got off to the program’s best start since 2009 — already matching their win total from last season — before falling to Hoggard 38-14 on Friday. Head coach John Sherman and his team had their bye last week.
Scotland (1-1) travels to Jack Britt (2-2) next week for an interesting matchup.
The Scots began their season with a tough seven-point loss to Mallard Creek, bounced back to defeat Durham Hillside and then had two weeks off — due to their Week 3 matchup with Marlboro County getting cancelled and a scheduled bye in Week 4. They were back in action Friday evening, downing West Mecklenburg 40-27.
The Bucs are the newcomers to the SAC and will be looking to make a statement against a Scotland team that has won six straight conference championships. They’re on a 2-game win streak after dropping their first two games on the road.
Pinecrest (3-1) hosts Seventy-First (3-1) in a battle of two one-loss teams.
The Patriots lost their starting quarterback from last year, Nik Pry, but have been on a roll with junior quarterback Greg VanSteen (663 yds, 8 TDs) under center. VanSteen helped the Pats to three consecutive wins — two being in dominant fashion — before they dropped a close one at Providence last week.
The Falcons, other than their 15-14 defeat at Cape Fear, have won every game by double digits — their largest margin of victory being a 32-point drubbing of Southern Durham. They’ll be out to prove, against a team who’s usually in that slot, that they deserved the No. 3 preseason ranking at the conference’s media day last month.
Hoke County (0-4) visits Lumberton (1-3) hoping to earn its first win of the season.
The Bucks haven’t had a problem putting up points with senior Kevin Thorpe (4 pass TDs, 4 rush TDs) leading the offensive effort, but they can’t seem to stop their opponents from scoring. They gave up 60 points to Westover two weeks ago and then allowed Lee County to put 55 points on the board last week.
The Pirates finally won their first game in Week 4 after three straight losses to kick off the 2017 season. Junior quarterback Braylan Grice, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score in the team’s 21-14 victory over West Brunswick last week, will be looking to bring that same kind of production to the team’s conference opener next Friday.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.