The second season begins Friday for three remaining Robeson County football teams, but it doesn’t appear that campaign will last for long.
South Robeson’s got the best shot at playing after Thanksgiving, but that’s not due to the Mustangs being a dominant force late in the year. Favorable matchups in the opening and second rounds have Stephen Roberson’s team on a crash course for Albemarle on Nov. 29, a 1A power that crushed the Mustangs in 2012.
South Robeson’s beaten two teams with winning records — Trinity Christian and Harrells Christian — and four conference losses came by an average of 30 points. When the Mustangs are playing well, they’re keeping the ball off the turf. Turnovers have been a problem throughout.
The road’s much more treacherous for Fairmont and St. Pauls, two teams on the cusp of nine-win seasons despite inconsistency on defense. Production on offense against programs under .500 has disguised the fatal flaw for both — susceptibility to big plays in the second tier.
The Bulldogs gave up nearly 500 yards passing in last week’s win over Red Springs while the Golden Tornadoes were gouged for over 1,200 yards rushing over their final three games of the regular season. Both teams will have to improve on that side of the football to give Robeson County a true threat in the 2A ranks.
Week 12 Record: 2-1; Overall 43-15
Ah, those pesky Pirates. Lumberton won its second consecutive Backyard Brawl last week to avoid the program’s first winless season in more than a decade. With Purnell Swett threatening to score, Travis Suggs sealed the deal with an 85-yard interception return that will be a reoccurring nightmare for Rams fans many years to come.
Atkins (3-7) at South Robeson (6-5)
No disrespect to Winston-Salem Atkins, but here’s another example of a team that didn’t do enough during the season to qualify for the playoffs. But made it. In the 1A ranks where there’s only five teams with a legitimate state title shot, programs with losing records are often invited to fill the necessary 64 spots out of 75 football-playing schools. In what basically equates to a first-round bye for the Mustangs if they play like they care, South Robeson should coast into round two with a strong effort on the ground against a team that’s lost six straight.
South Robeson 34, Atkins 12
Fairmont (8-3) at Ayden-Grifton (5-6)
Fairmont may have struggled against the run this season, but I’m going against the grain and picking this team as the one on a first-round mission after failing to reach the postseason in 2012. For the most part across all classifications, only one team shows up in opening playoffs games and Fairmont has the motivation. Ayden-Grifton’s up against an offense for the first time in a month that’s quarterback-driven behind the arm of a 44-touchdown passer. Champions of the run-heavy Eastern Carolina Conference, the Chargers are in for a battle that they’re probably not expecting.
Fairmont 34, Ayden-Grifton 28
St. Pauls (8-3) at Northside (8-3)
Jacksonville Northside’s won six straight games and the Monarchs seem to be catching St. Pauls at a good time. The Bulldogs nearly suffered a rivalry setback to nine-loss Red Springs last week, days after an eight-point defeat at East Columbus cost St. Pauls a home playoff game. Getting back to the quality football that was played during the middle of the season is key for one of the county’s most talented teams. It might be too late.
Northside 28, St. Pauls 20
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.