That’s how Judgment Week went for three .500 teams hoping to separate themselves from a muddied list of contenders in Robeson County last Friday night.
James Atkinson’s coaching philosophy looks like it has started to gel with his players as the Golden Tornadoes have steamrolled through the competition over the last two games. Despite losing two more starters on defense early in the first half against South View, Lumberton stayed the course late in the contest and after squandering a 20-6 lead, held on to win by a point on the road.
Rankings are based on strength of schedule, quality wins, talent on offense and defense and a personal eye test. Like all rankings not based on a computer-based mathematical formula, these are subjective. Previous rankings are indicated.
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6. Purnell Swett (1-2, PR: 4, tie): Too many turnovers. Early on against Hoggard, the Rams looked as if they were in upset mode after jumping out to a first-quarter lead thanks to Jeremiah Swett’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Hill. That’s when things turned sour. Swett turned the ball over seven times over the next three-and-a-half quarters and suffered its worst loss in six years. The Rams gave up 104 yards rushing to two different running backs and had little answers for Hoggard quarterback Christian Poveromo through the air. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Swett as it tries to avoid a 1-3 start. A road trip to unbeaten New Hanover looms Friday.
5. South Robeson (2-1, PR: 4, tie): What a job Stephen Roberson has done thus far at South Robeson this season, rounding up the troops in a forgotten program and parlaying that into back-to-back victories. Who would’ve thought a team struggling with numbers and not much projected talent would be 2-1 at this point? Where the Mustangs go from here is the real question with two non-conference games remaining before the campaign kicks into high gear. South Robeson is thin up front, something that may come back to bite the Mustangs during the Three Rivers slate. What looked like an uneven game against Swett in two weeks before the season could be one of the biggest tilts in school history. Imagine the swagger the Mustangs would bring into Pembroke if they’re riding the program’s first three-game win streak in more than six years.
3b. Fairmont (2-1, PR: 3, tie): Defensively, the Golden Tornadoes are stout and have allowed a Three Rivers-low four touchdowns this season. Bookends Charlton Townsend and Luke Hunt have played various positions on defense, lining up in a three-point stance or coming off the edge to anchor the blitz. Both are leaders of a front-seven along with Naim Bellamy that has stuffed the rush this season. Fairmont is still working things out on offense and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the area considering it has scored 92 the last two weeks. Derrick Baker is a tough runner, a talent the Golden Tornadoes should lean a lot during the next few weeks.
3a. Lumberton (2-1, PR: 1, tie): Finally, Lumberton plays a home game this week after nearly a month of football on the road. It couldn’t come at a better time for a team nursing its wounds on defense, a unit that’s extremely thin in the secondary. That won’t matter much this week against run-heavy Seventy-First and legendary coach Bob Paroli who recently announced this would be his final season with the Falcons. Daniel Robinson, like St. Pauls’ Shawn Williams, has been his team’s workhorse this season and gotten the tough yards when needed in crunch time. With the defense at half-strength, the Pirates gave up nearly 400 yards last week. Expect that number to come down in front of an energized home crowd.
2. St. Pauls (2-1, PR: 3, tie): The Bulldogs move up a slot this week because it finally looks the defense is coming around. Players have been gassed this season on that side of the ball considering how prolific — and fast — the St. Pauls offense has been. Kane Banner is coming into his own as a dual-threat quarterback and developing a relationship with a trio of talented receivers. Due to added depth, St. Pauls hasn’t had to use star corner Jhamel Leonard much on offense, an added bonus for a defense hoping to take shape before the start of conference play at preseason favorite Red Springs in two weeks. The Bulldogs should click on all cylinders again this week against one of the state’s worst defenses. It’s vital for Trey Sasser’s squad to stay healthy and keep their eye on a conference crown.
1. Red Springs (2-1, PR: 1, tie): Ranked fifth in the latest NCpreps.com media poll, the Red Devils moved up a couple spots after last week’s shellacking of Granville Central. Head coach George Coltharp is establishing himself as one of the best in the area with 12 wins to his credit in 16 games at Red Springs. He’s turned a team that had trouble reaching the end zone in recent years into a program feared by 1A competition. The reigning Robeson County Coach of the Year won’t have his hands full again until next week’s road trip to Sun Valley. Friday’s homecoming game — even with pregame and halftime distractions — should be a laugher for Blake Greene and the Red Devil offense.