LUMBERTON — Finally, we have a little drama in this week’s rankings due to a dominant win by St. Pauls and a heart-breaking loss by Red Springs. There’s also good news in the bottom half as there aren’t any more winless teams in Robeson County after Lumberton, South Robeson and Fairmont all earned their first victories on Friday.
It’s become a prototypical case of splitting hairs as there’s now a logjam in the middle of the list. So, here goes nothing.
1. St. Pauls (3-0)
The Bulldogs have been vying to be heard since the beginning of the season. After a thoroughly dominating 44-0 road win over East Columbus, Mike Setzer’s group is looking good. Really good.
Junior running back Marqueise Coleman rushed for a team-high 310 yards and three touchdowns, cementing his claim as one of the best rushers in the county. Quarterback Hunter Bryant is doing just enough each week to keep defenses honest as evident by his only completed pass Friday, a 29-yard touchdown.
The most impressive group on the team, however, is undoubtedly the defense. They’ve been the driving force for an opportunistic squad who plays until the final whistle. The Bulldogs defense has at least one turnover in every game and collected three more against East Columbus.
Ok, St. Pauls, we hear you. Now it’s time to see how they respond to being the top dog when they host South Robeson. The game was scheduled for Friday, but is now postponed due to Hurricane Florence.
2. Red Springs (2-1)
It’s unfortunate, but Red Springs couldn’t hang on to a 15-point lead in a 32-28 home loss to South Columbus and therefore, won’t hold on to the top spot. Running back Jayshawn Carthen has been on a roll this season, but was held to just 75 yards rushing. The offense stalled in the second half when he couldn’t get it going.
3. Purnell Swett (2-1)
Coach Jon Sherman and the Rams were idle last week, so they have no immediate case to jump any of the top two teams. But when last in action, they were impressive for a large portion of a 21-13 road win over Douglas Byrd. Sherman has done a better job at giving opposing defenses different looks of star wideout Chandler Brayboy. He had all three of the team’s touchdowns in the win over the Eagles. If they can find at least one more player to emerge on offense and the defense can contain the big plays on the ground, the Rams will continue their win streak.
It looks like they’ll have to sit out again this week, however, as the matchup with Hoggard that was scheduled for Friday has been postponed because of the storm. So far, the make-up date has yet to be determined.
4. Lumberton (1-3)
The Pirates have arguably the most valuable player in the county in Braylan Grice. He’s almost always the sole source of offense for his team and proved it again scoring all three touchdowns as they finally secured a win, 22-5 over West Brunswick. The defense had their best output of the year. After giving up five points in the first, the Pirates kept the Trojans off the scoreboard for the rest of the contest.
Grice and the guys will take off this Friday because of the oncoming storm and will resume play next Friday when they travel to Hoke. The matchup will be the Pirates’ first within the Sandhills Athletic Conference. Hoke is still searching for its first win.
5. Fairmont (1-2)
Fairmont got its first win of the year when they took care of West Bladen 28-6 at home. Usually a pass-happy team with a dynamic receiver in Jordan Waters, the group stumbled upon a weapon that might be useful as they get into the thick of their conference schedule. Freshman running back Colby Thorndyke was decisive with his 11 carries and tallied 105 yards with two touchdowns.
With other playmakers like Jayvon Morris and Jahkeem Moore, when he returns from injury, the Golden Tornadoes will have a formidable offense to compete in the Three Rivers Conference. Their success will be heavily reliant on the defense, however, and how it adjusts to run-heavy offenses.
As of now, there isn’t a decision on when they’ll play West Columbus after the storm settles.
5. South Robeson (1-2)
The Mustangs got their first win of the year after a grueling two-week stretch. Coach Clay Jernigan has one of the youngest groups in the county, so the struggle so far is to be expected. It’s also why they’ll stay at the bottom of the pack this week.
The running back position has been a bright spot for the team as the three-headed attack of Jamaeros McLeod, Tyleek Baker and P.J. Christian has produced a great deal of their offense. In the 32-28 win over West Columbus, the three backs combined for 347 yards.
Whoever can establish the run more effectively in their next matchup against St. Pauls, will go a long way in determining the winner.
Donnell Coley can be reached at 910-416-5165 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Sportsinmyveins.