Editor’s note: The Robesonian’s 32-member all-county football team will be announced Dec. 15.
LUMBERTON — It’s often easy to spot the best player on the field for a 10-loss team.
The star never comes out of the game, flexes his talent on film and is an integral part of the game plan.
Demetri Sheridan assumed that role for Lumberton this season, the Pirates’ quiet leader during a season marred by injuries, inexperience and a surprising coaching switch.
“The timing for Demetri was unfortunately bad and it was very hard on him,” said Ron Cook, Lumberton’s interim coach and defensive coordinator. “He’s a humble kid and would never say it, but being the leader that he is was quite a challenge getting guys to follow in our system and bring ones that haven’t played up to speed.
“He kept us together.”
Sheridan averaged 17 tackles a game and his 187 total stops is Robeson County’s highest total in several years. For his contributions as Lumberton’s middle linebacker, Sheridan’s been named The Robesonian’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year.
“It is really an honor. I have been working hard on the little things to improve my game and it paid off,” Sheridan said. “My father (Warren Sheridan) always told me, ‘when it seems like there is no play, you go make one.’”
Cook first met his on-field assistant coach in the spring after leaving Red Springs to join Lumberton’s coaching staff. An honor roll student, Sheridan’s initial impression on the former Division I defensive end was a positive one.
No surprise he was a team captain who carried the Pirates’ battle flag into the stadium before every game.
“Even before seeing him play, I could tell how focused Demetri would be on the field just because of his strength in the classroom,” Cook said. “He absorbs everything and is a very smart player. He understands every situation out there. Guys that can run sideline to sideline in high school are a dime a dozen, but his level of ability and intellectual capacity exceeds the rest.”
Sheridan returned an interception for a touchdown, piled up six sacks and scored twice from the backfield on offense. His game-clinching interception of an errant Thristian Lowry pass in the fourth quarter of the Backyard Brawl at Purnell Swett was a fitting end to a previously winless season salvaged by a victory in the finale.
Several in-state programs including Appalachian State and Catawba are interested in Sheridan’s services, but how the undersized linebacker fits into a team’s plans at the next level remains to be seen.
Cook says Sheridan’s potential is high.
“He’s not going to be one of those guys who is only good on special teams,” Cook said. “At the right school, I think he’s an all-conference player. The key is him continuing to develop physically and in college, he’ll only get bigger. I’m still not sure how a kid that’s not even 6-foot tall wears a size 16 shoe. I’m 6-2 and I’ve worn a 14 since the eighth grade.”
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.