LUMBERTON — There was a minor shakeup in the power rankings this week, and rightfully so with one undefeated team going down and three teams escaping the ranks of the 0-fers.
St. Pauls, South Robeson and Fairmont opened up conference play undefeated, with the Bulldogs and Mustangs getting their first wins of the season and will meet this Friday in the first intra-county matchup of the season.
Lumberton also got its first win of the season, and stacking up the three teams that won their first games was quite a task.
The lone loser on Friday, Red Springs, took a lopsided loss at South Columbus and took a tumble this week.
1. Purnell Swett
The Rams were idle last week, so we’ll keep them right where they have been all season, since they are still undefeated, after all. The are the only undefeated team left, and it starts the tough stretch of its schedule on Friday at Hoggard.
The Golden Tornadoes had better second-half composure on the road at West Bladen on Friday to shake off its loss earlier in the week to Ashley. After the Knights cut into the lead in the third quarter, Fairmont scored a fourth-quarter touchdown and its defense stood tall to have a scoreless final period to secure the win and move up to No. 2 in the rankings.
While the Golden Tornadoes’ defense held West Bladen to 12 points, it showed it was bend but don’t breaking allowing three opposing running backs to rush for over 70 yards. Continuing to patch the defense needs to be the main focus the next two weeks before going up against Whiteville, East Bladen and South Columbus in three straight weeks.
3. Red Springs
Having the challenge of opening conference play at South Columbus was too much for the young Red Springs offense that mustered two rushing touchdowns from Lee McLean in the loss. The Red Devils had two turnovers that resulted in touchdowns for South Columbus and also was susceptible for big plays on defense.
The Red Devils now will now regroup to take on West Bladen on Friday at home, another run-heavy team with an athletic running back in hopes of getting back to its No. 2 slot that it fell from this week.
4. St. Pauls
Win No. 1 came with ease for St. Pauls over East Columbus. The Bulldogs held the Gators to 98 yards of total offense to allow its offense to rattle off 45 straight points to open conference play. Noah Wheeler returned to last year’s form, accounting for five touchdowns and over 200 yards of total offense.
Also emerging in the win was Caleb Inman as another threat in the backfield for St. Pauls to go along with Marqueise Coleman, with 139 yards and two touchdowns rushing. He was also the team’s leading receiver.
5. South Robeson
The 40-point margin of victory for the Mustangs was the largest margin since the program won 64-0 over Atkins in the first round of the state playoffs in 2013. Jamearos McLeod, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 134 yards, continued to lead South Robeson to open the season in the win over West Columbus. He’s joins Al’Drique Thompson of Purnell Swett and Lee McLean from Red Springs as the only running back with touchdowns in every game for their teams.
The defense from South Robeson that was exposed the first two weeks pitched a shutout after the opening drive to the Vikings to rise one spot in the rankings.
Breaking through for its first win playing in its third close game in a row, the Pirates showed grit, but the offense showed a slight sign of regression with a low-yardage output. In the one-touchdown win, Lumberton’s defense showed it was capable of getting stops and turnovers when it needed to. A positive that came from the win, along with the added confidence, was running back Montrez Howell returning to form following injury.
The Pirates take a dip, down one spot in the rankings this week with its close win in their battle of the winless teams against West Brunswick, while St. Pauls and South Robeson picked up blowout wins.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.