Here’s a look from staff writer Brad Crawford at Friday’s Week 10 high school football games involving teams from Robeson County:
Whiteville (7-1, 4-0) at Fairmont (7-1, 3-1)
Coaches: WHS — Luke Little; FMT — Randy Ragland
Recent history: The Golden Tornadoes’ winning percentage all-time vs. the Wolfpack hovers around 30 percent.
What to watch: Is this Fairmont’s toughest game of the season thus far? That’s the business-like mindset the Golden Tornadoes are taking into homecoming this week against one of the region’s most physical teams. Luke Little’s squad is loaded with underclassmen, but they haven’t felt the pressures of inexperience during this current seven-game winning streak. Whiteville’s the fifth-ranked 1A team in the state. Since falling to St. Pauls in its Three Rivers opener, Fairmont’s responded with three consecutive convincing wins and has only given up 14 points defensively over its last 12 quarters. Had their last three second-halves not been played with a running clock, the Golden Tornadoes would likely have some of the 2A ranks’ most impressive offensive numbers. Nonetheless, Jarrod Neal’s 35 touchdown passes leads all 2A quarterbacks.
Keep an eye on: Tykwan McDougal, Whiteville’s lead back along with Terrin Manning and perhaps the conference’s player of the year depending on how the final three weeks shake out. McDougal rushed 10 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns during last week’s shutout win over West Columbus.
St. Pauls (6-2, 3-1) at South Columbus (6-2, 4-0)
Coaches: STP — Trey Sasser; SC — Jake Fonvielle
Recent history: South Columbus has won 9-of-14 career meetings, including the last seven.
What to watch: Can St. Pauls conquer the mountain — again? The Bulldogs are comfortable with playing on the road this season, having given Fairmont its only loss on that quirky Saturday night game in September. St. Pauls took a defense-first mindset into that one, but still managed to move the chains and score points at an efficient rate offensively. South Columbus, winners of six straight games, poses a different threat. The Stallions rarely turn it over and prefer a simplistic approach with the football. They’re going to run right at you and test your will up front. So far, coach Jake Fonvielle’s strategy has worked to near perfection since his team’s averaging 55 points per game in four blowout conference victories. The Stallions’ only win over a team with a winning record this season came against South Robeson.
Keep an eye on: South Columbus running back DaShaun Daniels is one of three ballcarriers that shares the rushing load in the Stallions backfield. He gashed South Robeson for more than 100 yards and is rarely stopped at the line of scrimmage at the point of first contact.
East Columbus (2-6, 0-4) at Red Springs (0-8, 0-4)
Coaches: EC — Chris Haney; RS — George Coltharp
Recent history: Red Springs has won three straight over East Columbus since being shutout by the Gators in 2009.
What to watch: With the postseason out of the picture for one of the county’s and conference’s preseason favorites, Red Springs has three games remaining to get younger players some reps and build for the future. While a winless start isn’t what area player of the year Blake Greene envisioned for his senior season, he has still managed to add 20 touchdown to a career total that likely won’t be matched anytime soon in Robeson County. Lack of defense has been the focal point this fall, the league’s worst at 44.5 points allowed per game. Both of East Columbus’ wins came early in the season and the Gators have fallen by at least 20 points five straight games.
Keep an eye on: Red Springs linebacker Markeiss Blue, a senior talent that hasn’t given up on his inexperienced and injury-riddled unit this season. Blue is one of the conference leaders in tackles and stops for loss, but his numbers have gotten lost during the Red Devils’ disappointing stretch.
South Robeson (5-3, 2-2) at West Columbus (1-6, 0-4)
Coaches: SR — Stephen Roberson; WC — Mark Little
Recent history: The Mustangs’ three-point victory in last year’s matchup gave South Robeson a one-game edge in the all-time series at 11-10.
What to watch: South Robeson’s hoping to stop a two-game losing skid that’s made things difficult as far as league championships are concerned. The Mustangs, who have already qualified for their second straight trip to the playoffs, need a lot of hope in that regard with just three conference contests remaining. Juan Ellerbe contributed 172 yards rushing his previous outing on a season-high 32 carries. South Robeson’s opened holes all season for the bundle of muscle, but the passing game’s been nearly non-existent. Last week, West Columbus coach Mark Little was recognized for his selection as an assistant coach in this year’s Shrine Bowl. It was one of the lone brights spots in what has been a challenging season with few players for the veteran coach in Cerro Gordo.
Keep an eye on: Michael Smith, aka Mike-Mike, South Robeson’s senior defensive back and part-time receiver who’s one of the area leaders in interceptions and pass deflections. Smith didn’t have his best game in last week’s loss to St. Pauls, but expect him to get back to his usual dominance in the South Robeson secondary on Friday night.
Swett (2-6, 0-2) at Pinecrest (7-1, 1-1)
Coaches: PS — Mark Heil; PC — Chris Metzger
Recent history: Arguably the Southeastern Conference’s best out-of-county rivalry, Swett’s 8-14 all-time against the Patriots with most games in recent years decided by a touchdown or less.
What to watch: The two-week gauntlet is over for Purnell Swett. The Rams simply don’t have the talent this season to compete with Scotland and Richmond, two 4A Top 10s with speed to burn at nearly every position. Meanwhile, Pinecrest is still licking its wounds from a 75-28 loss last week at Scotland in what many of the Patriots brass deemed the biggest game in school history. Swett must win out and finish third in the SEC to reach the postseason or at least grab two more victories to get to four overall, becoming more attractive as a wildcard.
Keep an eye on: Tyler Maynor, Swett’s most effective player on offense this season. The senior wide receiver is a possession target, but he has also taken handoffs in the backfield and split time in the secondary.
Lumberton (0-8, 0-2) at Richmond (7-1, 2-0)
Coaches: LHS — Ron Cook; RC — Paul Hoggard
Recent history: The Pirates have beaten the Raiders once in 27 all-time meetings.
What to watch: At what point will the Lumberton Pirates play a full four quarters of football this season? Had it not been for an early 24-0 hole at Hoke County last week in Ron Cook’s debut as interim coach, the Pirates would’ve likely beaten the Bucks with an accurate outing from sophomore quarterback Austin Foley. The competitive juices have been there throughout the season for a program that hasn’t quit, but it takes more than a half of solid football to win in the SEC. After a slight hiccup in its league opener two weeks ago, the Raiders responded with a convincing victory at Raider Stadium against Purnell Swett. Speed has given the Pirates problems throughout the season and Richmond has it in all areas.
Keep an eye on: Josh Sheridan, Lumberton’s junior playmaker who caught four passes for 100 yards out of the backfield during last week’s near-victory at Hoke County. He scored a third-quarter touchdown on a 26-yard run.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.