LUMBERTON — This season the Robeson County football power rankings has spread the wealth, and this week it features the fifth new No. 1 team after another down week for the six teams in the county.
South Robeson was the lone winner on Friday in its 44-6 playoff-clinching win over East Columbus, while the other five teams lost. Purnell Swett and Red Springs caught themselves on the bad end of two losses of more than two touchdowns, and St. Pauls, Fairmont and Lumberton losing by a touchdown in their conference matchups.
Three weeks remain in the regular season, and through nine weeks here’s how the six teams stack up.
1. South Robeson
Heading to the postseason for the sixth straight season, the Mustangs make the jump from third to first this week after being the only team to win on Friday and securing a postseason bid in a 44-6 win over East Columbus. The three wins this year is the most the Mustangs have had since 2014, coach Clay Jernigan’s first season.
The three-back backfield of Darrius Brown, Darius Wright and Jamearos McLeod accounted for five of the six touchdowns against the Gators to continue to show why they have some of the most talented backs in the county.
2. St. Pauls
The Bulldogs hung tight with East Bladen, and took a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles shot down the upset bid. Two weeks after the loss to South Columbus, the Bulldogs looked more equipped to play against a Three Rivers Conference title contender.
Noah Wheeler stayed turnover-free to show how St. Pauls can compete with high-level teams if they cut the turnovers out. This is the second week in a row the Bulldogs have been in second in the power rankings.
Another close call hit the Golden Tornadoes as it was playing catch-up right from the get-go against South Columbus. The good news for Fairmont is that was the end of tough streak of games that featured some of the top teams in the conference. Now comes a rivalry matchup against Red Springs that will again test its mettle with playoff seeding starting to mean more.
Quarterback Derrick Arnette continued to carry the offensive load with four touchdowns in the loss, but taking the two interceptions out would make his game more beneficial for his team. Fairmont jumped up two spots this week in the rankings.
4. Red Springs
Despite putting up the third-most points scored against Whiteville this season, the Red Devils offense was unable to hang with the Wolfpack, going more pass-heavy than usual. The loss drops the Red Devils from No. 1 to fourth this week after staying in the top spot for two weeks in a row.
Sophomore quarterback Denym McKeithan continued his progression as a quarterback with two touchdowns in just his third turnover-free outing of the year, while passing for a season-high 152 yards. Running back Lee McLean is a yard away from being the first running back in Robeson County with 1,000 yards.
5. Purnell Swett
The bad loss to Jack Britt drops the Rams to fifth in the rankings after being in the top half of the list all season. The game which had playoff implications for both teams and affected the middle of the pack in the Sandhills Athletic Conference, turned out to be more lopsided than many imagined as the Rams’ defense struggled to stop the Buccaneers’ run game even without starting running back Glenn Young.
Offensive drives struggled to find the end zone or build much momentum with quarterback Luke Oxendine’s receivers dropping more than a small amount of passes and the run game behind two backup running backs failing to get going.
The Pirates have had several close calls this season, and at Pinecrest the loss was the third time this season they fell less than a touchdown short. Lumberton hangs on to the bottom spot of the rankings once again, and is the only team to not earn the top spot in the rankings this year.
Once again, quarterback Braylan Grice continues to do it all for the Pirates with his arm and his legs with the team’s running game being virtually quiet since the win over Hoke.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.