There’s nowhere to go but up for most of the area’s recent football heavyweights who have stumbled in 2012.
After last year’s 10-win campaign, perhaps Red Springs has taken the throne as the area’s top title contender, but even that seems a bit far-fetched if the Red Devils, who are extremely thin on depth, have to win a couple of road games to get there.
Rankings are based on strength of schedule, quality wins, talent on offense and defense and a personal eye test. Like all rankings not based on a computer-based mathematical formula, these are subjective. Previous rankings are indicated.
Comments are welcome.
6. Purnell Swett (2-6, 0-3; PR: 5): The Rams’ Super Bowl isn’t until next week, so looking ahead against Hoke this week would be fatal. Tailback Detrez Newsome will hit triple digits on the ground with ease on Friday if Swett is caught thinking about Lumberton. The Rams are struggling on offense at this point in the season and taking a running back-by-committee approach in the backfield. Swett’s last offensive touchdown came against South Robeson, but I think that will change this week. Hoke’s had problems defending the pass and the Rams have hit on a few this season down the field.
5. Fairmont (4-5, 1-2; PR: 4): Jarrod Neal’s injury early in the third quarter at Red Springs took the air out of Fairmont’s balloon and sucked whatever momentum the Golden Tornadoes had away from the visiting sideline. Without a game-changer like Neal in the backfield, Fairmont struggled to muster positive yards as Red Springs scored on three consecutive possessions. Injuries and personnel losses have damaged Fairmont throughout the season, but the team has still managed to win four games. The Golden Tornadoes look to play spoiler the next two weeks with conference games against East Columbus and St. Pauls, two teams battling for a second-place finish.
4. South Robeson (3-5, 1-2; PR: 6): It happened. The Mustangs won a Three Rivers Conference game. It took three overtimes last week, but South Robeson outlasted West Columbus to claim victory on homecoming. The poise has been there all season, but the execution down the stretch hasn’t. If you speak to head coach Stephen Roberson, he thinks the Mustangs should be .500 — maybe better — at this point. The program’s heading in the right direction and has a chance at a possible monumental win at Red Springs this week with a strong performance on defense.
2b. St. Pauls (6-3, 1-2; PR: 2): Good offense, bad defense. That combination usually leads to an early playoff exit, but I don’t think that is the case with these Bulldogs. There’s talent on that side of the ball, but for whatever reason, the plays haven’t been made most of the season. St. Pauls has two weeks left to patch up the problems before opening the postseason. Last week at East Columbus, things unraveled quickly. The Gators erupted for a school-record 60 points and led 34-12 after the first quarter. A crucial road game for the Bulldogs turned into a quick rout. Sound familiar? The same thing happened at Red Springs in the conference opener. Road games are a different animal and St. Pauls has found that out the hard way this season.
2a. Lumberton (4-4, 0-3; PR: 3): Rarely do teams move up in a poll after a loss, but the Pirates proved they can hang with the state’s top teams last week in a 30-17 loss to Richmond and that’s impressive. Daniel Robinson went over 100 yards for the second straight outing, Jez Dees made a few plays through the air and Lumberton’s defense kept the Pirates in the game until the Raiders woke up and stayed unbeaten with a 24-point second half. After pushing Richmond to the brink, I doubt Scotland overlooks the Pirates in Laurinburg this week. Last time Lumberton made the trip to Pate Stadium, it came away with a 24-19 victory. The Scots have won 22 of their last 24 games since.
1. Red Springs (6-3, 3-0; PR: 1): They just keep on winning. The Red Devils recovered from an early lapse on offense last week to pummel Fairmont, 46-10, to capture their first victory in four years over their cross-town conference rival. A fourth-down, 47-yard touchdown pass from Blake Greene to C.J. McGeachey was the dagger for the Golden Tornadoes who played the Red Devils tough for two quarters. Defense has turned into a strong point instead of a liability for Red Springs. There will be a time this month, likely next, where the Red Devil offense gets in a rut. The season will hinge on the defense at that point, a unit that has proved its up to the task. For a group that doesn’t get much love with Blake Greene on the other side of the football, they’ve become the county’s best bunch of playmakers.
Editor’s note: Heartland Publications’ NCHSAA playoff projections complete with possible matchups, pods and seedings will be published in Thursday’s online and print edition.