Left, Union Pines’ Damon Bremmer (22) carries a Southern Lee defender with him on a rushing attempt late in the 24-6 win at home over Southern Lee. Right, Pinecrest’s Nahjiir Seagraves (32) runs with the ball against Hoke County last week in the 38-10 win for the Patriots.





The rivalry between Pinecrest and Union Pines on the football field enters a new chapter this week. The cross-county matchup that had an eight-year hiatus following an on-field altercation between the sides in 2010 resumed two years ago, and now the Patriots and Vikings find themselves as conference foes.

The rivalry resumes Friday at Union Pines, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.

Pinecrest (7-2, 4-1 Sandhills) looks to close out the regular season with eight or more wins for the third straight fall season and looks to set itself up nicely for a favorable playoff spot. Union Pines (2-7, 1-3 Sandhills) is coming off its first Sandhills Athletic Conference win last week and could spoil the party for its rivals.

“Union Pines won this week and they are trending upward and they see their future is really, really bright,” Pinecrest coach Bob Curtin said. “There would be nothing greater to them than to finish on an exceptionally high note. Any team that could beat Pinecrest in the way we’ve been playing lately would feel that way.”

The Patriots defeated Hoke County, 38-10, last Friday and did so by rushing for 391 yards. Defending the run has been a weak point in the Vikings defense, and slowing down the rushing attack from the Pinecrest backfield is where Union Pines looks to build its defense this week.

“They’ve got two really, really good tailbacks that run well at a good level and are super fast. It’s going to take a great effort for us to be able to play in this game,” Union Pines coach Jason Trousdale said.

Senior Xavier Dowd has rushed for 715 yards and 10 touchdowns this season for Pinecrest, and has split time taking handoffs with junior Nahjiir Seagraves, who has 699 yards and eight touchdowns.

Union Pines’ defense held Southern Lee to six points, its best outing of the season, but now comes a challenge the team hasn’t seen the likes of since it played Richmond.

“They're as physical as anybody we’ve played this year. They’re going to run about two or three plays and they run them very well,” Trousdale said. “They don’t care what you do. They are just going to stick to the game plan.”

That is the mindset Pinecrest also takes on the defensive side of the ball, Curtin said. Pinecrest’s yardage totals for the season are nearly the same as its opponents', but the defense has stood its ground with the Patriots outscoring its nine opponents 289-151 on the year.

“We have to establish who we are. We want offenses to have to look at us and game plan us, not us necessarily game planning everything they do,” Curtin said. “They are going to throw some things at us. They’re going to try and run some power and double wing. Those are great formations, but we go against a running team every single day in practice. We want them to have to plan against our 3-4 (formation).”

The defensive line formed around Will Brock, Cam Horton and Jayden Scott have the Union Pines coaching staff’s attention going into the matchup.

“Those guys are as good as we’ve played as a whole. There’s not a (Richmond senior defensive lineman) J.D. Lampley over there, but they’ve got some other good kids,” Trousdale said. “They are fast and they fly the ball. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us to move the football, but we know we have to move the football and get some turnovers.”

In its two wins, Union Pines averaged 39.5 points per game, but in the losses scoring hasn’t come as frequently at a rate of less than 10 points per game. The Viking offense has developed a more hard-nosed approach running the ball in recent weeks with backs Noland Chappell, Bradyn Hackett, Russ Schaper and Jordan Hoffman.

“I think the kids know we are going to try and be physical with them and we’re going to try to attack some of their weaker spots,” Trousdale said. “We’ve got to be able to manage the game and manage the clock and do stuff that we have done a little bit this year, but even maybe more, and just try to attack them where we can. We’ve got to play our best football game of the year, and if we do that, we will have a chance.”

Curtin said Pinecrest is staying focused on limiting the mistakes and turnovers ahead of the matchup with Union Pines, as well as making sure nothing goes wrong with their playoff chances ahead of the team.

“For us, we need to maintain our discipline in all aspects of the game and life. That’s what we are hitting home this week. Just play good, hard-nosed Patriot football and the rivalry will take care of itself,” he said. “We need to take care of business. We’ve got a lot on the line. Potentially we have a first-round home playoff spot and we don’t want to lose that.”

Pinecrest has won the last five meetings in the series, with Union Pines’ last win coming in 2006.

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com

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