First Posted: 1/15/2009
The founding members of the Lumberton Football Association have devoted thousands of hours and dollars in the past two years to improving the Lumberton High football program from the ground up.
Monday, they learned that the Pirates would be hiring a new head coach to try to improve the program at the top.
When Lumberton Principal Greg Killingsworth announced that Bill Dockery would not be returning as the Pirates' head football coach, it sent a clear message to two of the LFA founders, James Granger and former Lumberton quarterback Steve Bollinger.
“It sounds to me like (Killingsworth) realizes that there needs to be a fundamental change in the program, not just a coach,” Granger said. “It's been three winning seasons they've had out of 20. It's a 4-A school, the 17th-largest high school in the state. There just needs to be an overall refocus of the entire program, practice, weights … everything.”
The LFA works with players ages 6 to 12 in hopes of preparing them to bring Lumberton High back to prominance on the football field when they reach the high school level. There were 325 players in the LFA last season, with another 180 wait-listed because all teams were full.
In order to ease the transition, the LFA teams run the same style offense and defense that the Pirates bring to Alton Brooks Stadium on Friday nights, and that won't change no matter who takes over the program.
“We can change what we do, as far as playbooks and what direction we're headed in a week,” Granger said. “We have the ability to adjust to whoever the coach is and still point them in the right direction.”
That adjustment might be even easier for the LFA members. In a Fayetteville Observer story announcing Dockery's firing, LFA president Mike Brill was suggested as a possible replacement. Brill is a former head coach at South Robeson High, who left coaching due to health problems but is rumored to be interested in returning to the high school sidelines.
“If he wants the job, more power to him,” Granger said. “With him being our president, we would support him if he was there, but that's not the primary mission of the LFA.”
Killingsworth is still accepting applications for the position and has said he will seek community input before choosing Dockery's successor.
Granger and Bollinger have a few criteria they would like to see Lumberton's next coach.
“We're probably going to need a coach who has a proven track record, who's been a head coach for a while, who understands what it takes to build a football program here, in our environment,” Granger said. “That's different than at Charlotte Independence, that's different than Richmond County.
“We're in probably a unique environment in that the resources may not be there to facilitate what the program needs as far as equipment and whatnot, but we all can work towards that. That's one of the purposes of the LFA is to help with resources.”
Killingsworth may have a better pool of applicants to fill the job this time around because of the establishment of a first-rate feeder program and the prerequisite community support that led to the LFA.
“We hope that we're helping the process,” Bollinger said. “We hope that a good, qualified coach would become more interested in the Lumberton job because of the LFA.”
Granger and Bollinger said they would support Killingsworth's choice for coach, no matter who it is.
“He knows what he's doing, and we support his decisions,” Granger said. “He's done, in my opinion, step one of about four steps that need to be done. Hopefully he'll continue to make decisions to help the program.”
– Dennis Pillion can be reached at 910-739-4322, Ext. 118, or by e-mail at [email protected].