RAEFORD — Despite the excitement of the first game of the high school football season being right around the corner, the mood was a bit muted Sunday evening for the six Southeastern Conference coaches.
The biggest news surrounding the annual SEC coaches meeting at Bayonet at Puppy Creek Golf Course in Raeford was the health of Scotland senior quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe. The three-sports star suffered a head injury during an ATV accident last week and has been recovering at Charlotte’s Carolinas Medical Center.
Scotland coach Richard Bailey walked around the room to update his fellow coaches and members of the media on the latest news on Ratliffe’s condition, stressing to everyone it was a long road to recovery for the Georgia Tech commit.
Even with the loss of the two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the coaches and media still selected Scotland as the team to beat this season. Scotland grabbed five first-place votes from the coaches and three from the media.
The Fighting Scots were 15-1 last year and won their third straight conference championship. The team made its second appearance in the 4A title game in three seasons, falling to Dudley 24-7.
Richmond was the second pick by both the coaches and the media. The Raiders didn’t receive a first-place vote from the coaches, but did pick up two from the media. The team was selected as the conference runner-up on five of the coaches’ and two of the media’s ballots.
The Raiders finished their 2013 campaign with a 9-4 mark and were third in the SEC with a 3-2 record. Richmond advanced to the second round of the state 4AA playoffs, losing to Northwest Guilford 31-12.
Pinecrest was selected to finished third in both polls. Half of the coaches thought Chris Metzger’s team would come in third, another tabbed them to be conference runner-up and another had them in the cellar.
The Patriots were a surprising 11-2 last season and 4-1 in the SEC to finish behind the Fighting Scots. Pinecrest knocked off Laney 13-7 before being eliminated by Wake Forest 17-10 in the second round of the playoffs.
Lumberton and Hoke tied for fourth in the coaches poll. The Pirates earned the other first-place vote from the coaches.
The media agreed with Hoke finishing fourth, but dropped Lumberton to sixth.
The Pirates were 1-10 overall and 1-4 in the SEC. Lumberton had two coaches during the season — Joe Salas started the year on the sideline before being replaced on an interim basis by Ron Cook.
The Bucks were 2-9 a season ago and 1-4 in the SEC under then head coach Milton Butts. Hoke hired Tom Paris, the former Southern Lee coach and Richmond and Scotland assistant to replace Butts.
Purnell Swett was selected to finish last by the coaches, while the media bumped the Rams to fifth. Mark Heil’s squad was picked fifth on half of the coaches’ ballots and sixth on the others.
The Rams were 3-8 last year and 1-4 in conference play. Their only SEC win came at home against Hoke.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.