LUMBERTON — I will take four more weeks of what I saw last Friday night.
Standing on the sidelines at Red Springs, I watched one of the best games I have covered between the Red Devils and South Robeson, and if the final four weeks of the regular season bring that kind of excitement, I will be content.
We are in the home stretch of the season, meaning it’s do or die time for teams like Fairmont, St. Pauls, Red Springs and Purnell Swett. Those four need to win out or win at least three games to stay in the playoff picture. South Robeson has to take care of business and it’s no problem. As for Lumberton, that ship sailed away several weeks ago.
Through eight weeks, my picks record is 35-4 after going 5-0 last week.
Jack Britt (4-3) at Purnell Swett (3-4)
Looking at the Rams schedule early this season, after going through the tough spell that it faced the last four weeks, this was supposed to be the easier end of the season, and in my opinion a win. Much like the rest of the local football community on Friday, the Jack Britt win over Richmond caught me by surprise, and now I’m not so sure about a Rams’ chance for a victory.
With Al’Drique Thompson out, and the end of a physically and mentally taxing stretch of games, this game isn’t as reachable as previously believed. The Buccaneers threw the first punch last week going up 21-0 over Richmond, something the Rams have caught on the jaw a few times this year, spelling disaster for this game and a big hit to their playoff chances.
Prediction: Jack Britt 35, Purnell Swett 30
East Columbus (0-7) at South Robeson (2-5)
This game decides who will get the playoff seed in the 1A playoffs from the Three Rivers Conference, and the longest active playoff streak in Robeson County shouldn’t be in trouble as long as the Mustangs do their job. The best backfield in Robeson County should have no trouble scoring against a porous defense that is giving up over 37 points per game.
Darius Wright has rushed for over 600 yards the last five weeks and last week Jamearos McLeod’s streak of a touchdown a game that had lasted all season was snapped. Those two will carry the load in the blowout win to secure a postseason bid.
Prediction: South Robeson 36, East Columbus 8
Lumberton (2-5) at Pinecrest (4-3)
Seventy-First had no trouble with the Pirates last week and an evenly-matched Pinecrest team should fare about the same. The Patriots don’t have the firepower at quarterback like the Falcons do, but the Lumberton defense has shown it struggles to resist almost every offense it goes against. Only one team has been held to under three touchdowns against Lumberton.
While the defense is giving up big numbers to its opponents, the offense can’t keep up, no matter how well Braylan Grice has played. It’s a game of catch-up that the junior cannot overcome. He needs some help badly, and his play won’t been enough to top the Patriots.
Prediction: Pinecrest 49, Lumberton 13
Fairmont (3-4) at South Columbus (7-0)
The Golden Tornadoes’ fight on the road late against East Bladen was impressive, but a team like South Columbus won’t let them come back into a game. East Bladen, from what many have said, is a better team than South Columbus, despite the Stallions earning a 14-13 win earlier this year, but Fairmont’s opponent this week is a veteran team that won’t let off the gas.
Trequan Bellamy and Seth Buffkin have fond memories of putting up basketball-like numbers on the scoreboard against Fairmont in the second round of the state playoffs last year. It won’t be quite that bad, but they should have no trouble running against the Golden Tornadoes.
Prediction: South Columbus 42, Fairmont 28
Red Springs (4-3) at Whiteville (6-1)
The Red Devils play last week should breed some concern going up against one of the best teams in the conference on the road. The Wolfpack have rolled past every team they have faced outside the loss to East Bladen to open conference play, and that trend continues tonight.
Based on how running back Lee McLean and the offense operated at a low level for most of the game last week, the offensive struggles of Red Springs has to be addressed and fixed this week, while the defense takes on a tougher task in Whiteville.
Prediction: Whiteville 42, Red Springs 14
East Bladen (6-1) at St. Pauls (4-3)
This is a battle for one of these teams to hang on to the second-place spot in the conference. I know it’s hard to imagine based on the direction these teams have went this year but two teams at 4-1 in the conference meet to hang tight behind South Columbus. The Bulldogs have had more rises and falls than a roller coaster, while the Eagles have cruised to this point in the year.
The fourth quarter last week will serve as a wake-up call for East Bladen. The 38 points that Fairmont scored was 24 points more than any team had put up against the Eagles. A driven and focused team won’t tread so lightly going up against the St. Pauls offense.
Prediction: East Bladen 35, St. Pauls 21
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.