What a difference a win makes.
A week ago, things seemed to be "doom and gloom" for the Marlboro County High football team. An opening night loss to Carvers Bay had killed all the preseason momentum and put a damper on enthusiasm. The defense had been porous, leaving the whole season in doubt.
However, the Bulldogs responded to the challenge, fixing much of what had gone wrong against the Bears.
The result was a dramatic 30-28 win over a very talented Cheraw team.
"When you play a schedule like ours, any win is a cause for celebration. Cheraw probably won't lose again, at least in the regular season, so that took a gritty performance by our guys," said head coach Dean Boyd Tuesday.
"It has lifted our team emotionally. With the cooler weather and a win under our belts, we had a great practice on Monday," said Boyd.
While the win was a needed relief, the Bulldogs still have plenty to work on with Scotland County, Dillon and Hartsville looming on the schedule over the next few weeks.
"We turned the ball over three times against Cheraw. That makes winning much harder, so we have to clean that up. The defense was much better but we still have work to do there as well," he said.
Wednesday afternoon, Boyd announced the decision to move the game against Scotland to Thursday night due to expected heavy thunderstorms on Friday.
This is the second year in the row that the game will be played on Thursday due to storms. The Scots won last year’s contest 20-0 at Pate Stadium in Laurinburg.
Scouting the Scots
Now with a 1 and 1 record, the Bulldogs will face one of the top teams in North Carolina, Scotland County.
The Scots opened the season with a 28-21 defeat at the hands of Mallard Creek, North Carolina's top ranked Class 4A team. They bounced back last Friday with a 34-21 win at Durham's Hillside High School.
Scotland features not just one of the top running backs in the nation but two. Senior Zamir White, a University of Georgia commit, is rated as the number one running back in America by numerous recruiting services.
"It is like watching Hershel Walker or Bo Jackson. He is powerful and incredibly fast," said Boyd. "He single-handedly beat us two years ago."
Also in the Scots back field is junior Syheam McQueen. A bit smaller than White, McQueen is just as fast and equally deadly. Despite playing in White's shadow, McQueen is ranked by some recruiting experts as high as third in the nation among junior running backs.
With White injured, McQueen racked up over 200 yards and three TDs in the Scots' win over the Bulldogs last season.
Warren Bell, a senior, transfered from Westover High School in Fayetteville to quarterback the Scots. He is an adequate passer but is like having a third running back in the backfield.
The offensive line is huge, with all but sophomore Antonio Lucas being senior veterans.
On defense, the Scots are just as loaded. Top tacklers from 2016 Javon Ratliff and Chris Williams return at linebacker to lead the unit.
"Playing a team like Scotland is a tremendous challenge. We can grow as a team and gain confidence by playing well," said Boyd.
For years, the Scotland - Marlboro rivalry was one of the best on the schedule. However, as Scotland's enrollment has remained the same or grown, Marlboro County has diminished. That has made it difficult for the Bulldogs to keep pace.
The Bulldogs had a three game winning streak in the series snapped in 2011 and have lost the last six games with the Scots.
Keys to the game
Marlboro County has some tough opponents on the schedule but Scotland County is in a whole other category.
It will take an inspired effort by the Bulldog defense to limit the damage done by "Zeus" White and his running mate McQueen. Some turnovers would certainly help the cause.
On offense, the Bulldogs cannot commit turnovers and must hold the ball as much as possible to limit the Scots' opportunities.
JV game played early
Due to projected rain, the junior varsity game between the Scots and Bulldogs was moved from Thursday to Wednesday at Pate Stadium in Laurinburg.
Tee it up
The game has been rescheduled to Thursday night at 7 p.m. due to predicted heavy rains on Friday.