ST. PAULS — With the St. Pauls and South Robeson football teams picking up their first wins of the season last week, getting the second tally in the win column is on both teams minds.
St. Pauls (1-2, 1-0 TRC) travels to South Robeson (1-2, 1-0 TRC) on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff and both coaches have noticed differences in their teams following victories heading to the first all-Robeson County matchup of the season.
“It’s totally different when you go into the weekend with a win, plus the kids are more confident in what they’re doing,” St. Pauls coach Ernest King said. “They realized what we are teaching them and that it actually works. We’re practicing harder and the kids are concentrating a whole lot more.”
The Mustangs are also getting accustomed to refocusing, instead of looking in the rear-view mirror on their success last week.
“We’ve had to let them know that they can celebrate, but now that celebration is over with and get our minds back to going to work this Friday,” South Robeson coach Clay Jernigan said.
On Friday, the Mustangs and the Bulldogs broke open two blowout wins to start conference play.
South Robeson earned a 48-8 win over West Columbus and Jernigan saw his team execute better to finish off drives in the win as compared to the first two games this season.
“I thought we had more of a team effort, played more as a team than we did in the first two games,” he said.
St. Pauls topped East Columbus 45-8 by scoring 45 unanswered after the Gators scored on their first drive. Leading the way was its defense that is showing carryover from its narrow defeat against Union Pines.
“The second half of the Union Pines game, we got better against the run, and then it carried over into the East Columbus game and we are hoping that it carries over into the South Robeson game,” King said.
While King notes that South Robeson is using the pass more in its offense, he knows that the strength still lies in its run game. Against the Vikings, Jamearos McLeod and Darrius Wright combined for six touchdowns, and senior Darrius Brown has the capability to break a long run with his speed.
“They’re playing with confidence because they got their first win the same week as us. He has a good group of kids,” King said. “They have speed with their backs and we have to make sure to tackle and everyone runs to the football. They have three athletic guys, a real tall receiver on the outside and they are so much bigger than we are.”
Quarterback Noah Wheeler returned to his form from last season with five total touchdown against the Gators for St. Pauls. Wheeler along with Marqueise Coleman and Caleb Inman propose a challenge for the Mustangs’ run defense.
“They’ve got good athletes. They’ve got a good running back, good receivers and the quarterback can really play and puts a third dimension in their game besides just throwing it,” Jernigan said. “He’s (Wheeler) like an extra coach on the field for them.”
With a roster nearly double the size of the Mustangs, King doesn’t have an players that play on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs, and they’ll use it to give them the upper hand in most games. Also aiding their conditioning advantage is the hurry-up offense that King said is “one of the best defenses.”
“That’s always been our thing not letting our guys go both ways so they are fresher in the fourth quarter,” he said. “We feel like it plays to our advantage sometimes.”
The Mustangs know they are at a disadvantage when it comes to depth, but continue to work on conditioning heading into the game.
“They’ve got depth in numbers and that’s one thing we try to do is get them in shape,” Jernigan said.
West Bladen at Red Springs
Red Springs (2-1, 0-1 TRC) and West Bladen (2-1, 0-1 TRC) are coming off their first losses of the season to open conference play and the Red Devils return home for the first time in almost a month.
For the second time in as many weeks, Red Springs takes on a run-based team after falling 42-12 to South Columbus to open conference play. This game will be won in the trenches with both teams looking to ride their running backs en route to winning their first conference games. The Knight’s B.J. Drake has 519 yards rushing through three games, and Lee McLean of Red Springs has 478 yards and four touchdowns.
Purnell Swett at Hoggard
Either Purnell Swett (3-0) or Hoggard (3-0) will get their first loss of the season in the final tuneup before conference play for both teams.
Fueled by solid defenses and senior-led offenses, the Rams and the Vikings have cruised up to this point in the season with blowout wins over their opponents. Hoggard’s defense has allowed two touchdowns total in its first three games. Purnell Swett’s defense has shaken off early bad starts, and has allowed 12 points combined in the second half this season, including not allowing any points in the fourth quarter so far.
Senior running backs will take center stage for their offenses in this game with the Rams’ Al’Drique Thompson and Hoggard’s Lloyd Jarreau both averaging over 80 yards per game coming into the meeting
West Columbus at Fairmont
Fairmont (2-1, 1-0 TRC) looks to move its win streak to three games when it takes on West Columbus (0-3, 0-1 TRC) at home. Following their game against the Vikings, the Golden Tornadoes enters a five-game stretch against five of the top teams in the Three Rivers Conference.
Fairmont’s run game will look to replicate the success that South Robeson had last week against West Columbus. Malik Arnette is coming off his season-best game running the ball for Fairmont with 71 yards and a touchdown in the win at West Bladen. Quarterback Derrick Arnette has shown his versatility as a dual-threat quarterback the last two weeks and could spell problems for West Columbus.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.