LUMBERTON — Friday night was awful crazy for three Robeson County football teams locked in down-to-the-wire games, and the blame should be cast on the full moon and the craziness that usually follows it.
South Robeson and Red Springs went back and forth in the fourth quarter, and Fairmont surged back from a 21-point deficit against one of the Three Rivers Conference powers on the road. The rest of the games went as expected, and very minimal changes came to the power rankings.
The one thing that had no change in the power rankings was the top spot. Here’s how the local teams shake out after eight weeks.
1. Red Springs
The Red Devils reversed the curse of the No. 1 spot that had been a bad omen for the previous four teams to hold it. Red Springs kept its top spot in the power rankings, but not without a fight against the Mustangs. Their spot seemed in jeopardy when South Robeson took a one-point lead with 3:14 left, and looked even more in trouble facing a fourth-and-10 at midfield, but the Red Devils found a way.
Denym McKeithan had his moment in crunch time on Friday with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and proved that how you finish is the most important part with two his three pass completions on the night coming on back-to-back throws in the final minute. And don’t forget about Jerome Bass and his two-touchdown performance, while guiding the defense to hold South Robeson to 117 yards rushing.
2. St. Pauls
After taking care of business against West Columbus, the critical stretch of games that carry playoff weight are ahead for the Bulldogs. There was no letdown game against West Columbus, like it had last year allowing the Vikings to hang around, but that was expected with the defeat that St. Pauls had a week prior.
Next week will tell the tale if Noah Wheeler and the offense has turned away from its low offensive production that it had against the Stallions. We thought we had already seen them turn the page after the Fairmont win, but this will be the second time to look and see if there is an improvement with East Bladen coming to town.
3. South Robeson
Even with the loss, South Robeson inches up a spot along with St. Pauls, but the Mustangs showed promise against Red Springs. Once again finding themselves behind in the second half, the Mustangs fought back and took the lead with two scores in less than three minutes in the second half. The faces and the reaction after the game told the story for the Mustangs, but that shouldn’t define them after nearly pulling off one on the road.
While the running game was held quiet for the first half, Tyler Locklear directed the offense well passing the ball 16 times with eight completions and 73 yards passing. Darius Wright had another standout performance with 104 yards and two touchdowns. Wright’s output was the best of the night among all the running backs in that game, and the top backs in Robeson County were playing on both sides.
4. Purnell Swett
Four weeks ago, the Rams were riding high at No. 1 and undefeated on the year. That seems like an eternity ago with how fast the season goes, and these last four weeks against some of the best teams the state has to offer haven’t made time go any faster for the Rams. The light that was at the end of the tunnel last week is now upon Purnell Swett, but the trip is still not over.
Luke Oxendine stretched his Sandhills Athletic Conference-leading mark of passing touchdowns to 14, and is nearing his total of passing yards from last year. The Rams take on Jack Britt this week, and a battle should ensue. The Buccaneers are coming off a 21-point win over Richmond, and Purnell Swett is thirsting for a win.
The effort was valiant to come back and take the lead over East Bladen after being down three touchdowns with four minutes to go, but the execution by the Golden Tornadoes on special teams was not. Coach Kevin Inman said in the preseason that special teams was going to be something Fairmont would not over look after he witnessed South View lose the state title on a muffed punt.
Shy Pone’s 74-yard kickoff return in the final minute spelled heartbreak for the Golden Tornadoes that could’ve found relief in the middle of its tough stretch of games with a win, but will keep looking for their first win since Week 5 this week.
Another week at the bottom of the rankings hits the Pirates that suffered their second-worst defeat of the season to Seventy-First. The Lumberton defense had its worst game of season, outside the lost to Dillon as Kyler Davis and the Falcons racked up 559 yards of total offense.
The road awaits Lumberton for the next two weeks going up against Pinecrest and Richmond, but a turnaround is needed. Finding offensive help from Braylan Grice, who connected on 14-of-19 passes against Seventy-First, but very little help in the run game negated the progress the passing attack had.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.