Pinecrest Opens SEC Schedule with Lumberton
Respect will be one of the things on the line when the Pinecrest and Lumberton football teams clash tonight at the John Williams Athletic Complex.
The Patriots take a record of 6-0 into the homecoming night game and Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. They have allowed the least amount of points of any 4A team in the state (31), including just six in the second half of their games.
Mallard Creek is the only team that has scored more points (284) than the 5-1 Pirates, who are coming off a 50-33 loss to Laney in their last outing.
But here is where the perceived respect issue comes in. Neither school has played a team that currently has a winning record. The Massey Ratings have Pinecrest’s schedule ranked No. 251 out of 401 teams of all classifications in the state. Lumberton’s slate is ranked No. 215.
“Not that we’re paying attention to them, but there are critics out there saying we haven’t played anyone,” Patriot inside linebacker David Smith said earlier in the week. “I feel we have a chip on our shoulder, and coming off a loss, they may feel they have a lot to prove also.”
Also providing motivation for the Patriots will be the 45-14 shellacking the Pirates handed them after a 6-0 start in 2009. The night before, the Patriot jayvee team was beaten 34-6 by their Pirate counterparts.
“We got absolutely dismantled,” Patriot coach Chris Metzger said after the varsity game played at Lumberton. “We were very humbled as a program really last night and tonight.”
Coach Mike Brill’s run-oriented Pirate offense is led by 6-foot-4 sophomore quarterback Marquez North who scored five touchdowns against the Patriots in last year’s jayvee game.
Operating out of the shotgun, he is averaging 14 yards per carry with a team-leading 551 yards on 39 attempts. He has rushed for seven touchdowns and passed for six more. The state qualifier in the 400-meter dash last spring had a hand in four touchdowns and accounted for 204 yards of total offense in the loss to Laney.
“He’s just an all-around threat and we have to prepare for that,” said Smith, who faced North in the 2009 jayvee game. “We always have to fly to the ball and wrap him up.”
Larry Parker is the second-leading rusher for a Pirate team that is averaging a whopping 11.5 yards per carry as a team. Like the Patriots, they have thrown just 27 passes in six games.
The Pirate defense was solid, too, until Laney quarterback Mike Sheehan passed for 482 yards against it.
“They were really depleted by injuries two weeks ago and Laney has a really good team,” Metzger said. “Based on what we’ve seen, there aren’t any chinks in their armor. They’re going to be coming in here firing on all cylinders.”
The Patriots haven’t so far displayed the kind of an air game that could capitalize on weaknesses in a team’s secondary. They have also relied on the run led by Damion Pride with 536 yards on 67 carries and nine touchdowns. The senior has averaged 8.0 yards per carry.
Since Travis Scales underwent knee surgery from an injury suffered two games ago, Kyle Ocheltree has proved to be a capable replacement at quarterback for the Patriots. The former wide receiver has scored five touchdowns and passed for another.
The defense has held four opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground and allowed only one run of more than 20 yards. The defense and special teams have provided the Patriots with a 23-12 advantage in the turnover department and scored a total of seven touchdowns.
Defensive back John Brown has been credited with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Secondary mate D.J. Simpson has returned two fumbles for touchdowns. Smith leads the team in total tackles.
Dillon Maples for the Patriots and Connor Haskins for the Pirates are both outstanding punters and place kickers. Pinecrest trailed 10-0 in last season’s mistake-filled game at Lumberton before running its first play on offense. The Pirates recovered two of their own kickoffs in the game.
“Our team understands what kind of team we’re about to play,” Metzger said. “They’re going to be opportunistic and if we make mistakes they’re going to capitalize.”
Two teams with just one loss between them, playing their conference opener on homecoming night. It all adds up to a pretty good menu for excitement.
“It’s set up to be a big stage for a big game,” Smith said. “Hopefully, we’ll get it done.”
In the other Southeastern Conference openers being played tonight, Richmond Senior (5-1) entertains Hoke County (2-4) and Scotland County (4-2) plays host to Purnell Swett (5-1).
Contact Charlie Bergmann at email@example.com.
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