Patriots Face Rams Tonight at Home
Two teams that have each been beaten by highly ranked squads the last two weeks seek their first conference wins of the season when Pinecrest (3-5 overall record) and Purnell Swett (3-4) hook up tonight.
The team that wins will gain new life in its bid to make it to the state playoffs next month. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on homecoming night for the Patriots.
The Patriot losses were to two unbeaten teams in Lumberton (14-10) and Scotland High (41-17). The Rams fell to Scotland (42-26) and Richmond Senior (42-41) in games that were not decided until late in the fourth quarters.
The Richmond contest ended on a controversial failed two-point conversion run by the Rams.
“For us it’s a new season,” Patriot coach Chris Metzger said of his squad that outplayed now 7-0 Lumberton in defeat, but was routed by the Scots. “We’ve just said this is a three-game season so we’re focusing on this as game one to start the new season with a bang. We’ve got to lay it all on the line.”
The Patriots and Rams have met twice since realignment created the Southeastern Conference in 2009. Both were hard-fought games that went down to the wire.
The Pats won the first meeting 22-20 when time ran out on the Rams at the Patriot three-yard line. A 51-yard field goal by Dillon Maples in the third quarter turned out to be the difference.
A fumble at the Ram seven in the fourth quarter, and eight turnovers overall, cost the Patriots in last year’s 16-13 loss.
Vulnerable to the pass in several games this year, the Patriot defense will have its hands full with Ram quarterback Chase Armstrong. The senior combined to complete 28 of 46 passes for 487 yards and six touchdowns in the losses to Scotland and Richmond.
Running back/wide receiver Juwan Jones, who rushed for 195 yards on 32 carries against the Patriots last year, is Armstrong’s prime receiver. He had seven catches for 224 yards and three scores in the loss to the Raiders.
“He’s their guy,” Metzger said. “He does it all. They’re going to battle and have obviously had some close games. They’re battle tested so it should be fun.”
Slowed down on the ground by Scotland last Friday, quarterbacks Travis Scales and Aaron Reimer combined to complete 12 of 24 passes for 169 yards. Wide receiver Traivon Williams made a couple of circus grabs and finished with four catches for 86 yards.
The Patriot defense will try to build on a strong second half against a mixture of starters and reserves that followed a 34-point first half for the Scots.
A key for the Patriots will be a balanced attack that includes a revival of the ground game that was slowed — really for the first time this season — by Scotland.
“Like coach says, everybody is looking at this like it’s our first game — our first big championship game,” said offensive tackle Bryce Kennedy, who has verbally committed to play at UNC next year. “Everybody’s going hard in practice — every down — every play — to try and get a win.”
The Patriot cheerleaders are holding a barbecue dinner fundraiser in the parking lot near the tennis courts before the game.
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