Luke Hunt, Charlton Townsend and Naim Bellamy — each 2011 all-county players and members of The Robesonian’s Top 25 preseason list — along with junior starter Silas Oxendine will be on the sideline Friday night serving the first of a two-week suspension after being ejected at the end of last week’s home game.
Fairmont coach James Atkinson says the team will continue toward its goal of winning out with or without the four upperclassmen.
“We’ll slide some guys over to new positions and give other players a chance,” he said. “We’re going to wait and deal in-house with the four suspended players when we hear back from the NCHSAA. We’re hoping video proves two players of no wrong-doing.”
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 (1-3, PR: 6): Swett’s offense has big play potential, but sustaining drives has been the problem for the Rams this season. Andrew Hill has scored a touchdown in each of the last three games but he’s been the only reliable playmaker on a unit struggling with turnovers and moving the chains. Defensively, the Rams have showed age the last two games, giving up consecutive 50-point outings to Hoggard and New Hanover. A young defense that has been on the field longer than the offense this season is beginning to show fatigue and has problems stopping the run. Swett’s non-conference has been brutal, though, and that’s a testament to the importance Mark Heil puts on getting his team ready for the Southeastern buzzsaw that starts in two weeks.
5. Fairmont (2-2, PR: 3, tie): A drop-off in talent slides the Golden Tornadoes back two spots this week in preparation for Friday’s game against Wilmington Ashley. Already thin up front, the loss of four starters could cripple an offense that has struggled to move the football in long stretches this season. It’ll be interesting to see if the wave of adversity Fairmont has faced this fall catches up with the Golden Tornadoes over the next month or if the team uses it as a motivation factor. Three consecutive winning seasons will be in jeopardy if Fairmont doesn’t enter league play at 4-2 overall.
4. South Robeson (2-2, PR: 5): The Mustangs may have lost to Southern Lee last week, but South Robeson’s four-quarter fight to the end proves this year’s group has heart and plays with a lot of pride. Head coach Stephen Roberson said he was proud of his team’s effort and commended his players for staying in the game and not giving up. The maturation process has happened quickly for an inexperienced roster this season and that’s a positive heading into Three Rivers Conference play in a few weeks.
3. St. Pauls (3-1, PR: 2): The Bulldogs slide down a spot to No. 3 this week after showing no signs of improvement on defense in last week’s blowout win over West Bladen. In fact, St. Pauls may have taken a step in the wrong direction. Against a struggling offense, the Bulldogs gave up 45 points and 462 total yards, the most in both categories since the loss to Gray’s Creek. The loss of two starting linebackers who sat after violating team rules didn’t help matters, but the Bulldogs still took poor angles in the secondary and had trouble with the Knights at the line of scrimmage. St. Pauls has two weeks to clear things up before battling Red Springs. It’ll be a long night defensively if things aren’t worked out by then.
2. Lumberton (3-1, PR: 3): Listen to this stat: Lumberton’s three wins this season have come against teams with a combined record of 0-12. How’s that for what was perceived as a challenging non-conference schedule prior to the season? The Pirates have rebounded well from a loss at Jack Britt with back-to-back victories over teams from Cumberland County, but the jury is still out on whether or not Lumberton has enough firepower to defeat playoff-caliber competition. Outside of the game against the Bucs, the Pirates’ first real test comes at home Friday against Athens Drive (3-1). Lumberton’s defense — plagued by injury — will have its hands full against a multi-option spread. The Jaguars must stop Daniel Robinson, one of Robeson County’s leading rushers.
1. Red Springs (3-1, PR: 1): The Red Devils scored early and often against North Moore and captured their first shutout of the season thanks to a staunch defensive effort from Quinn Lowery, Mike Graham and Markeiss Blue. Red Springs seems to be getting better on defense as the season progresses, a question coming in for the Three Rivers favorites. Red Springs has won the turnover battle this season, done what it has wanted to on offense and is relatively healthy heading into Friday’s game at Sun Valley. The goal is to come out of that 4A road trip with some confidence and take care of Goldsboro next week before a showdown in the league opener with St. Pauls.