LAURINBURG — The speakers at Pate Stadium blasted out Queen’s “We Are the Champions” to celebrate the home team’s third straight Southeastern Conference championship.
Even though the final score showed Scotland defeated Richmond Senior 49-14 Friday night to win the title outright, it was just a seven-point game at halftime.
The Fighting Scots broke open the game with three defensive touchdowns in the second half, including back-to-back fumble returns for scores by K.J. Leggett.
“The game was really much closer,” Scotland coach Richard Bailey said. “They were playing without their starting quarterback (Brent Flowers) and I’m sure that really hurt them. Our defense has been playing so good all season.”
Richmond (8-3, 3-2) turned the ball over a season-high seven times in the game. It lost four fumbles and three of those were scooped up and returned for touchdowns by Scotland. The first was a 43-yard return by Avery Simmons at the beginning of the second quarter. The Raiders also had three passes intercepted, including one in the end zone while driving for the tying score before halftime.
“It should have been only 7-7 at halftime, but we gave them a gift there,” Richmond coach Paul Hoggard said about Simmons’ return. “Our game plan was to move the ball and use the clock.”
The Raiders’ first drive of the contest went just how Hoggard envisioned as Miles Grant scored on a 13-yard run to cap a 10-play possession which sapped just over six minutes off the clock.
Bailey said the scheme confused his defense in the beginning, but it was able to make adjustments to stymie the Richmond rushing attack.
“We had to get away from it because they started to put us in long-yardage situations,” Hoggard said.
Scotland (11-0, 5-0) earned its third straight victory over Richmond and win be seeded amongst the other conference winners when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association releases the playoff brackets today. Richmond will be grouped with the other third-place finishers and will likely be on the road in its opening round contest.
“I hope all the kids stay in the boat,” Hoggard said. “We need to finish a lot better than we have the last two weeks.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.