Mother Nature has taken its toll on Friday night football for the second time this season with all six Robeson County teams in action on Thursday night with the threat of rain and inclement weather rolling in on Friday due to Hurricane Matthew, leaving the teams with one less day to prepare for their conference opponents.
As Red Springs prepares to host Whiteville in a battle of two Three Rivers Conference heavyweights, the short week is nothing too out of the ordinary being the fourth time in two years that the Red Devils have played on Thursday. But even being a little accustomed to a short week, coach Ron Cook still sees challenges for this team this week.
“It’s always going to be a challenge any time you have a short week against any offense, but there’s a little bit more sense of urgency when you’re going against the option offense,” Cook said. “We’re making sure we’re on our P’s and Q’s as far as assignments and staying real disciplined when it comes to that.”
Red Springs (4-2) comes in after a bounce-back performance last week at East Columbus and prepares to take on the reigning conference co-champions Whiteville (2-4). The Wolfpack’s triple-option will raise new challenges for Red Springs, who played against an option offense two weeks ago against St. Pauls.
“St. Pauls also showed the ability to throw and then it was two guys we had to worry about,” Cook said. “But with triple, Whiteville can throw it but they’re not trying to throw it no where near as much as St. Pauls. And there’s three guys back there that can run.
“We’ve got to stay disciplined on three as opposed to two.”
Against Fairmont last week, Whiteville rushed for 374 yards, but Red Springs’ front seven will be a step up for the Wolfpack offensive front.
Whiteville edged Red Springs 26-21 last year, and now the Wolfpack are on the road for the Red Devils trying to get back into the conference title picture after the loss to open TRC play to St. Pauls.
“They know the stakes and I’ve told them this last six-game stretch that it’s not so much who we’re playing or where we’re playing, but it’s about winning each game that we need to win to have a chance to get back in the running for a conference championship,” Cook said. “We’re not only looking at this as Whiteville is the team we haven’t beaten yet, but also as the next game that we have to win to get back to where we need to be in the conference.”
The seniors for Red Springs have taken more control leadership-wise with the team and Cook said that credit goes to the loss to the Bulldogs two weeks ago along with the senior meetings he has with them every Monday.
“It’s a great reaction by the seniors in taking control,” Cook said. “Since St. Pauls, we’ve actually gotten a little better at that. The seniors are starting to mature in that way since St. Pauls in every practice.”
East Columbus at St. Pauls
One of the hottest team in the county, St. Pauls looks to win its fourth game in a row and stay on top of the TRC hosting East Columbus. The Bulldogs are moving the ball effectively on offense on the ground with the read option featuring running back Chris Graham and in the air with plenty of athletes on the outside. The defensive side of the ball has been the change in the past three weeks with a powerful front seven that have forced turnovers left and right.
St. Pauls defeated East Columbus 38-0 last season. The Gators are coached by former St. Pauls assistant Maurice Huey.
Fairmont at West Columbus
Fairmont, much like St. Pauls, is riding a three-game win streak and sits atop the TRC standings. After defensive woes in their first three games, the Golden Tornadoes’ defense has shown improvement over the last three weeks holding opponents to less than 16 points per game. Its offense has returned to the form it was in last season behind the connection of quarterback Julius Caulder and his many receiving options, led by senior Jarique Moore. They’ll look to continue improving against West Columbus.
Fairmont won 58-0 last year at home.
Purnell Swett at Scotland
The Rams first crack at SEC play after a 3-3 start comes against Scotland, the No. 2 team in the AP state rankings. With its revamped offense, Purnell Swett has been moving the ball well with junior quarterback Luke Oxendine and a host of running backs that provide depth with the speed that the offense operates with. This will be the Rams’ fourth road game of the season where it is 0-3 on the previous trips.
The Scots defeated Purnell Swett 57-8 in Pembroke last year.
Lumberton at Pinecrest
Lumberton starts Southeastern Conference play after an up-and-down non-conference slate against undefeated Pinecrest. The Pirates offense has been committed to staying balanced and is averaging nearly 125 yard per game in both the passing and run game. Montrez Howell is averaging over 82 rushing yards per game this season.
Last season, Pinecrest handed the Pirates a 42-7 loss.
South Robeson at South Columbus
South Robeson is still in search of its first win of the season on the road against TRC-leading South Columbus. The Mustangs have found a few new faces on offense that are helping out freshman quarterback Tyler Locklear and senior linebacker turned running back Emmanuel Thompson. That duo has joined with tight end Cameron Werrell and running back Darrius Brown to help the offense put up two touchdowns in each of the last three games.
Last season, the Stallions shut out South Robeson 44-0.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.