LUMBERTON — Twelve weeks have flown by and now we face the moment of truth for a few Robeson County teams as far as their playoff lives tonight.
St. Pauls and Purnell Swett can’t chance a loss to keep their playoff hopes alive, and Fairmont is on the outside looking in hoping that a win could put them inside the top 64 of the MaxPreps rankings to get them a postseason berth. Their opponents, Red Springs, Lumberton and South Robeson, look to play spoiler against their cross-county foes.
Through 11 weeks, my picks record is 51-5 after going 6-0 last week. I haven’t been perfect with my picks this season, but I can guarantee one thing, Robeson County football will go 3-3 this week.
Red Springs (7-3) at St. Pauls (5-5)
Two powerful run games meet, but to gauge how the game will unfold, you have to look at the defenses. Red Springs’ defense has been stout behind the play of its heart and soul, Jerome Bass, at middle linebacker, and its scrappy secondary. St. Pauls’ defense comes in with several players out missing, which could spell disaster for the Bulldogs’ chances in this one.
If Red Springs can turn this game into the ugly, defensive grind-out that it did on the road at Fairmont two weeks ago, it will have success against St. Pauls. You can’t count out Noah Wheeler and the Bulldogs’ offense, but defense wins championships, or at least this meeting.
Prediction: Red Springs 26, St. Pauls 18
Lumberton (2-8) at Purnell Swett (4-6)
Some of the best teams in the state have tried, but slowing down Lumberton quarterback Braylan Grice has been no easy task. The junior has carried the Pirates this far into the season, accounting for all but two of the teams’s touchdowns this year. He will be a challenge that the Purnell Swett defense will struggle to contain, both running and passing with Kwashek Breeden.
After putting up 21 points last week against Hoke, the lowest scoring output against the 0-10 Bucks all season, there has to be questions about the Purnell Swett offense that was running on high-octane fuel to start the year and now is running on regular unleaded gas. Those struggles will be the downfall of the Rams’ playoff chances this week.
Prediction: Lumberton 28, Purnell Swett 24
South Robeson (3-7) at Fairmont (4-6)
The most surprising score from last week had to be Fairmont’s 12-point win over winless East Columbus. A turnaround will be needed against a South Robeson team that has played well against the other two Robeson County teams it has faced. Twice I have seen opponents overlook the Mustangs, and needed execution late to seal the win, something Fairmont can’t afford.
With the slight glimpse of playoff hopes still there for the Golden Tornadoes, and South Robeson playing with house money with a playoff bid locked in, expect both teams to play close in this one, but the Golden Tornadoes’ athletes will be the difference.
Prediction: Fairmont 35, South Robeson 27
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.