For the first time since the first week of practice — and I hope I’m not jinxing this — all five Robeson County high school football teams are active and on the field this week.
Purnell Swett resumed practice last Thursday after having to quarantine a second time; Red Springs got back to full strength on Friday after much of the team was quarantined individually due to non-football-related virus exposures.
The Rams and Red Devils are among the lineup for Friday night, with Purnell Swett hosting Gray’s Creek and Red Springs hosting Midway.
“Like everything else with this whole COVID thing, nothing is normal,” Red Springs coach Lawrence Ches said. “The new normal is who can handle change the best, so that’s going to be the key is how well do we adapt to change?”
The Rams have yet to play a game, as their first quarantine eliminated the chance to play in Week 1, and their second quarantine caused cancellations in Weeks 2-4. Red Springs played in Week 1, a 22-8 win over Douglas Byrd.
“It seemed like this last two weeks was twice as long as the first two-week hiatus,” Purnell Swett coach Stephen Roberson said. “Most definitely (we’re holding our breath); the last time we made it to Wednesday (in Week 2 before going back into quarantine), and we’re trying not be pessimistic and trying to keep everybody’s spirits up, but also really stressing the fact that in class, if the teacher can allow, try to sit in the back of the classroom, try to stay away from people, so we don’t get caught up in contact tracing, things like that.”
Fairmont will host Clinton on Friday and St. Pauls will host Providence Day, a game added by the Bulldogs on Monday to make up for games they were unable to play earlier this season. While Lumberton and Cape Fear will not play Friday, a delay caused as the Colts come out of quarantine, they will play either Saturday or Monday.
This, of course, is all subject to change. Such is the world we currently live in.
Conference play begins this week
Four of the teams will be playing conference openers this week, even as they’re overall scheduling circumstances have differed, from having played three games to none.
Fairmont is the team that’s seen the field the most, and has played a tough schedule over its first three games in losses to White Oak, Westover and Lake View. Throughout that nonconference slate, coach Lonnie Cox has continuously stated that run of games would leave his team better prepared for Southeastern Athletic Conference play, especially with a perennial power coming to Hal S. Floyd Stadium this week.
“We know that we’ve got another class-act program in Clinton, a program that’s used to winning, coming here and we can’t make any excuses,” Cox said. “We’ve got to get better and we’ve got to get ready to battle with them, because it’s going to be an absolute battle.”
Purnell Swett goes into conference play without a scrimmage or game to this point, a unique challenge for Roberson and his staff.
“You always worry about how you’ll come out the gate,” Roberson said. “I’m hoping we have a lot of anxious energy — not nervous energy. But not knowing exactly what we’ve got, we’ll find out as the game goes on. … We’re just trying to get a rhythm and focus on what we do well, not necessarily what challenges our opponent presents.”
That’s assuming the Rams, opponents Gray’s Creek and any other teams scheduled to play Friday make it to the field.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.