We’ll see just how far apart Purnell Swett and South Robeson’s football programs are tonight when the two teams tangle at Big ‘Mo’ Stadium in the first “big” game of the season in this area. Mustangs coach Stephen Roberson returns to his old stomping grounds where he worked as an assistant to lead South Robeson against the Rams, a squad hungry to finally flex its muscles after a 1-3 start.
A win for the Mustangs would be Roberson’s signature decision in his first season, one he could hang above the mantle in his home. A loss for Swett would be equally as dramatic — and surprising — for coach Mark Heil and his players who have dominated the series in recent years.
Week 4 record: 5-1; Overall: 19-5
Fairmont’s lack of composure during the late-game fight with Lake View, S.C. sent a ripple through the defending conference champions program and could cost the Golden Tornadoes over the next few weeks. A postseason ban and hefty fine from the NCHSAA puts a damper on James Atkinson’s first season.
South Robeson (2-2) at Purnell Swett (1-3)
Are the Mustangs turning the ship — two wins after 16 straight losses — and are the Rams headed south? Both questions will answered tonight in Pembroke during a matchup that gives a huge momentum boost to the victor. Swett’s three losses have been the result of one of the toughest schedules in the state, but unless the Rams fix a mistake-prone offense quickly, more defeats will add up in the Southeastern Conference. South Robeson welcomes its underdog role and will try everything in its power to upset the home team. Tonight could be the start of Swett’s turnaround and after an intense week of practice, the nod goes to the team with more depth and talent at the skill positions.
Swett 34, South Robeson 6
Athens Drive (3-1) at Lumberton (3-1)
Lumberton’s wins are well-documented this season, three victories against teams that haven’t yet tasted victory. In this week’s endowment game, the Pirates have a chance to take out a squad that is more talented than the previous three teams they’ve played. We’ll be able to see what the Pirates are made of tonight against a program from the Tri-Nine that’s likely a playoff participant. If one had to guess, the Pirates are well-equipped to handle Athens Drive’s spread look with Ahmad Smith and Frankie Dickerson in the secondary. Throw in additional veterans Mac McGill and Ramell Davis on the front seven and there’s too much talent not to like Lumberton’s defense. The Pirates won last season’s tilt in Raleigh and may be in for another war tonight.
Lumberton 20, Athens Drive 14
Ashley (1-3) at Fairmont (2-2)
The million dollar question facing the Golden Tornadoes this week is how much of an effect will four suspensions have at the line of scrimmage? Will Fairmont respond to adversity in a positive manner or fold against Ashley’s triple option due to personnel losses? Three all-county players are tough to replace as a coaching staff and their production will be missed, perhaps too much to overcome the Eagles’ strong running game. Fairmont must move the ball with consistency on offense to stay in it and that’s been difficult this season.
Ashley 34, Fairmont 12
St. Pauls (3-1) at Harrells Christian (2-1)
Two more weeks. That’s the amount of time St. Pauls has to work out the kinks on defense, a unit that has given up yards in rapid succession and has had trouble keeping teams out of the end zone this season. Benefiting from a soft early-season schedule like their cross-county counterparts at Red Springs, the Bulldogs have used the first month of the season to showcase a new offense that has yet to stopped. Kane Banner’s having an all-county caliber senior season while a handful of other guys have made plenty of noise with big plays. The microscope is on the defense this week, however, against a program focused on running the football and keeping St. Pauls’ offense off the field. Things could get interesting for the favorites away from home.
St. Pauls 48, Harrells Christian 34
Red Springs (3-1) at Sun Valley (2-2)
Last year’s game between these two wasn’t even close, but both squads have a much different make-up in 2012. Red Springs’ 49-point defeat was before we — along with the players and coaching staff — really knew how talented this team would become. The Red Devils reached the third round of the state playoffs, entered this fall with a state ranking and flex a passing game that’s as good as it gets in the 1A ranks. Sun Valley has responded well after blowout losses to Richmond and Mallard Creek with consecutive wins and seems to be hitting its stride before the conference season. On film, the Spartans look like they have balance on offense and that’s likely the difference in this one.
Sun Valley 28, Red Springs 22