LUMBERTON — The Robeson County football power rankings had the biggest shuffle of the season after Friday’s results. No one stayed in the same position and the cream of the crop is starting to rise to the top now through 10 weeks.
Two teams were victorious on Friday with Red Springs earning an overtime victory over Fairmont and St. Pauls pummeling West Bladen, and that pair took jumps up the standings this week. The other four suffered losses and all but one dropped in the rankings.
Two weeks remain, with playoff positioning still in the mix for some, and pride on the line for all.
1. St. Pauls
The Bulldogs looked invincible in trouncing West Bladen and find themselves back on top of the poll, like it was the week after it topped Fairmont. After taking an embarrassing loss to South Columbus, St. Pauls has won two of their last three games, with the lone loss coming to East Bladen in a narrow defeat.
After struggling to find consistency for the first six weeks, the reigning Robeson County offense player of the year, Noah Wheeler, has found his stride with a seven-touchdown performance against West Bladen. With Whiteville and Red Springs ahead, the Bulldogs have to capitalize with their playoff lives on the line.
2. Red Springs
With their overtime win over Fairmont, the Red Devils got revenge for close losses in years past and set themselves up well to make the postseason. After sitting in fourth last week, Red Springs makes the jump to second in the rankings and, if things hold, could make the season finale meeting between St. Pauls and the Red Devils even more interesting.
For the second time in three weeks, quarterback Denym McKeithan directed the Red Devils’ offense to a late-game drive, this time to force overtime. There has yet to be a better running back this year in the county than Lee McLean, who crossed the 1,000 yard mark in the win, and Jerome Bass continues to show his versatility running the ball while being the top defensive player in the county.
3. South Robeson
After sitting in first after last week, The Mustangs quickly fell from the top of the rankings to third with a lopsided loss to South Columbus. With the playoffs already locked up for South Robeson, the next two weeks will be tough warm ups heading into the postseason with East Bladen and Fairmont to close out.
Darius Wright scored twice against the Stallions and continued his roll as the second best running back in Robeson County behind McLean.
Held to its lowest scoring total of the season, Fairmont was stumped by Red Springs’ defense that kept it to under 250 yards of total offense. The loss bumped the Golden Tornadoes down one spot in the power rankings after sitting at third last week.
Quarterback Derrick Arnette accounted for almost 200 yards of total offense and one touchdown, but the offense couldn’t get into a rhythm and had two drives end deep in Red Devils’ territory with no points. Jordan Waters, Arnette’s top target, was held in check with six grabs for 71 yards as Red Springs double covered the junior receiver.
For the last three weeks, Lumberton has occupied the bottom spot in the power rankings, but find themselves out of it this week. The Pirates showed fight against Pinecrest and Richmond, and take the step up with Scotland coming to tonight on Friday.
Do-it-all quarterback Braylan Grice scored three of the four touchdowns, the first time he had not accounted for all the scoring since the Hoke win. The rushing touchdown that came from Quamadre Cannady was the second touchdown of the year scored from someone not named Grice.
6. Purnell Swett
Another bad loss on Friday makes that six in a row for the Rams that have fallen down to the bottom of the rankings for the first time this year, and the 3-0 start looks even further away in the rear-view mirror now. After trailing by seven going into halftime, Purnell Swett was outscored 28-6 in the second half.
With Hoke and Lumberton left on the schedule, Purnell Swett takes on two of the Sandhills Athletic Conference’s bottom teams meaning a little easier road ahead, and possibly a chance at a win.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.