LUMBERTON — The field is virtually even now.
After three weeks that had three winless teams left, and four weeks with an undefeated team, everything is basically level for the six Robeson County teams that all dive into conference play this week. For the four teams in the Three Rivers Conference, it’s nothing new, but Lumberton and Purnell Swett head to their Sandhills Athletic Conference openers on Friday.
A shakeup occurred at the top of the power rankings this week, including a new No. 1.
As expected, the Golden Tornadoes took care of business against West Columbus and now take over as the top team in the rankings this week. In the dominating win, Fairmont moved the ball better on the ground and its defense held the Vikings to under 100 yards of total offense, all of which show progression from the loss against Ashley.
Quarterback Derrick Arnette was effective and efficient passing the ball and another receiving threat alongside Jordan Waters in Javon Morris has come along to help keep defensive backfields honest.
2. Red Springs
With the Red Devils coming off their first loss of the year, a rebound win against West Bladen was impressive with both teams looking to avoid 0-2 starts in Three Rivers Conference play. Behind its stout defense, Red Springs is averaging allowing less than 18 points per game to its opponents and takes a jump to No. 2 this week.
Head coach Lawrence Ches hyped up running back Lee McLean and his running ability all offseason, and now the sophomore is showing the hype is reality. With a touchdown in every game, and seven total for the season, McLean is turning heads in the backfield for the Red Devils.
3. Purnell Swett
Oh how the mighty fall. After four weeks as the top team in the power rankings, a blowout loss to Hoggard sent the Rams down two spots. The loss against the No. 7 team in the state was tough, but the road ahead is just as tough and signs of a possible downfall seem eminent for Purnell Swett.
In an ugly loss for the Rams, Hoggard showed to be a difficult road test, much tougher than any game they had played this season. Luke Oxendine and the Purnell Swett offense struggled and wasn’t able to put points up against the starters for the Vikings and the defense struggled from the get-go and was unable to rebound.
4. St. Pauls
With a two-game win streak that got the Bulldogs to .500 for the year, there’s still growing room for the young team that struggled to put away South Robeson on Friday. In a second half that St. Pauls should’ve run away with against the out-manned Mustangs, the young team failed to show a killer instinct or ability to execute late. That will need to change with another in-county game against Fairmont on Friday.
One thing that hampered the offensive flow was the absence of Marqueise Coleman at running back with an injury. He will be back and move Caleb Inman back to the slot receiver position to help bring a sense of normalcy for the team.
5. South Robeson
The Mustangs put up a good fight in the second half of their loss, something that surprised many knowing the circumstances with a small roster against St. Pauls. The resiliency shown by South Robeson is an example of how the team is turning the corner and could be on the way up with a few more winnable games this week.
The run game led by its talented backs of Darius Wright, Darrius Brown and Jamearos McLeod showed how dangerous South Robeson could be against a team that might look past them.
The Pirates didn’t win, but they didn’t lose either so they will hold onto the sixth spot in the rankings. With Hoke and Jack Britt coming up, Lumberton has its eyes set on getting back to .500 before a tough slate of games against the Sandhills Athletic Conference powers.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.