LUMBERTON — This week brings two of the biggest Three Rivers Conference games of the season for Robeson County teams as Whiteville travels to Red Springs and St. Pauls goes to East Bladen.
A loss could virtually take Whiteville, Red Springs or St. Pauls, who all have one loss in conference play, out of the title picture. Meanwhile, Fairmont, Purnell Swett and Lumberton are looking to end losing streaks that date back to before Hurricane Florence hit against teams that are in the upper half of their conferences.
The real questions now for the two Sandhills Athletic Conference teams is who will get the first league win and when will that happen?
After my first perfect week of the year, I am 21-9 through six weeks.
St. Pauls at East Bladen
Going up against the Wing-T that East Bladen uses on offense, the St. Pauls that showed up on the first half against South Columbus will have to stick around for four quarters on Friday. After being outscored 27-0 in the second half to the Stallions, there’s a sour taste in the Bulldogs’ mouths against a dominant running team.
To show it has what it takes to stop top-tier teams in the Three Rivers, St. Pauls has to have better execution on defense because last week showed there was nothing wrong with the offense.
East Bladen 35, St. Pauls 30
Whiteville at Red Springs
In the last two weeks, Red Springs has outscored its opponents 95-6. That’s a good recovery following the break from the hurricane and the loss to South Columbus that came a week prior, but this is what the buildup the last two weeks is for. Both teams can’t afford a conference loss so there should be no lack of hunger from either team.
Coach Lawrence Ches spoke this week to the pedigree of the Whiteville program, and rightfully so as the Wolfpack have never lost to Red Springs on the gridiron. A complete game from the Red Devils will be needed to finish off this week, but this team will have to prove that it is up the challenge.
Whiteville 27, Red Springs 24.
Purnell Swett at Jack Britt
A struggling offense taking on a stout defense more times than not gives the defense the upper hand. Jack Britt in its wins has held its two opponents to a combined 14 points in a total of eight quarters and four overtime periods, but in its losses it has allowed each team to post more than 20 points. The Bucs’ ability to flex their defensive muscle will determine the game, even though Purnell Swett has scored two touchdowns total in its last two games.
Jack Britt 21, Purnell Swett 7
South Columbus at Fairmont
This game seems to be a no-brainer to pick, the undefeated conference leaders in South Columbus taking on a Fairmont squad that has lost its last two conference games. But to look back at last season, the same trend that this year’s Fairmont team is taking is similar to last year where it lost in a close road game. The athletes and the Golden Tornadoes’ ability to make plays will keep them in this game. To get the upset, Fairmont has to show it’s able to start and finish strong, but this Stallion squad is more balanced than those in recent years.
South Columbus 42, Fairmont 28
Pinecrest at Lumberton
The Pirates get the extra prep time ahead of this matchup against a meticulous Pinecrest team that will challenge the Lumberton defense that needs a lift after giving up more than 40 points for the third time this season. Each time after surrendering that many points, the Pirates have rebounded, so maybe the extra practice will lead to one of those results.
But to finish the deal, Lumberton needs to figure out the mess that is its offense.
Pinecrest 30, Lumberton 18
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.