LUMBERTON — The end zone was hard to find for the three Robeson County football teams playing in the Battle of the Carolinas jamboree at Lumberton High School on Thursday, and at times the defenses made up for the lack of offensive outputs.
All three lost by one-score margins in low scoring contests with two 20-minute halves with a running clock. Lake View topped Fairmont 8-6, Purnell Swett was bested by West Brunswick 13-6 and Marlboro blanked Lumberton 7-0.
Purnell Swett was able to move the ball with ease on its first two drives behind the play of quarterback Luke Oxendine, running back Al’Drique Thompson and wide receiver Chandler Brayboy. The two drives that went deep into West Brunswick territory resulted in six points after a turnover on downs on the first drive and a Thompson score from eight yards out on the second drive.
After the touchdown, the Rams had their struggles on both sides of the ball, and coach Jon Sherman said it was a result of their energy level for the night.
“Our energy was bad. Right now we’ve got to get our passion back,” he said. “I was impressed by our offense there.”
West Brunswick’s power running game slowly pounded at the Purnell Swett defense with its continuous damage on the ground that slowly wore away on the Rams.
“They came out in a three-back set that we were prepared for,” Sherman said. “Stopping that comes down to having energy and violence.”
The weakness of the Fairmont defense last year was shown to be a thing of the past on Thursday as the Golden Tornadoes were able to slow up the run-based offense of Lake View aside from a late drive.
The Gators were kept off the scoreboard, and had trouble establishing any kind of offensive rhythm against Fairmont, led by middle linebacker Sidney McKeithan.
“We looked very good defensive,” Fairmont coach Kevin Inman said. “They came out and held them for the first three quarters and we came out and stopped the run and created a new line of scrimmage.”
On the opposite side of the ball, new quarterback Derrick Arnette showed his ability to create plays outside of the pocket and his opening drive touchdown toss to Javon Morris capped off a well executed drive with the run and the pass.
“That’s something we want to capitalize on, his athleticism when he gets out of the pocket and create a home run game with our quarterback,” Inman said.
It was one turnover that might have been the difference in the Pirates scrimmage against Marlboro. On the first drive of the game, Lumberton marched to inside the 10-yard line. On a give to the left side, running back Montrez Howell coughed up the ball at the one and Marlboro returned the ball 95 yards and punched in the games’ only score on the next play.
Despite two turnovers in the game and penalties in the red zone that cut scoring chances short, the Pirates were able to move ball well with Howell and quarterback Braylan Grice. But coach Mike Setzer said the glaring importance of turnovers was the main takeaway from the scrimmage.
“We do a turnover drill in practice, but now we’ve got to try and ask them how important this turnover drill is to them. We’ve got to go back to teaching them what it means how it is important,” Setzer said. “Offense we’ve got to cut out penalties and turnovers.”
Despite keeping its opponents out of the end zone the rest of the contest after the opening touchdown, Setzer saw his experienced group return to the basics and tighten up in the second half to help get its offense the ball back.
“We did a much better job of wrapping up and getting back to basics of tackling,” he said. “Sometimes the kids want to go for the big hits, but we want big clean hits.”
Regular season football games open up for all three teams next Friday.
Lumberton running back Montrez Howell dodges tacklers from Marlboro in the Pirates 7-0 loss.
Sidney McKeithan (8) blows up a play in the backfield for Fairmont in its 8-6 loss to Lake View.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.