LUMBERTON — As Bradley Burnette grew up, he was never far from the sideline of the Lumberton High School soccer games.
His brother, Gordon Burnette, was among the players that took the field for the Pirates during the mid-2000s, when the team was state-ranked, and Bradley watched former All-State players Kyle Dickerson, Devin Musselwhite and Chad Sanders. But this year, his senior season, he joined their ranks as the fourth boys soccer player in school history to earn All-State honors from the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association.
“It’s a blessing to get it,” Burnette said. “It’s an honor to share an award with players of that caliber.”
A four-year player on the varsity squad Burnette is the program’s first recipient since Dickerson was named to the team in 2007. Musselwhite earned the honors in 2003 and Sanders in 2002.
This was also his second year as an All-Southeastern Conference and All-Region selection.
“I think this award caps off his career and sets him up there in the ranks of the great players that have come through this program,” Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons said.
Confident and aggressive on the field, but humble off of it, Burnette served as the anchor in the center of Lumberton’s defensive line. It put him in a position that is hard to quantify statistically, even though his contribution was apparent to the naked eye.
“As a defender he’s not going to grab a lot of headlines,” Simmons said.
Burnette takes all the honors humbly. To him, it’s a testament to the work of fellow defenders Scott Cherichella, Mahir Patel and Antonio Massol.
“Those guys with me back there did their thing to help my season progress,” he said.
Against opponents such as Pinecrest, Burnette and his fellow defenders played aggressive enough to get steals and keep the ball out of the goalie’s box. It was a rare occasion that the line showed cracks.
For him, it was a matter of keeping a cool head and focusing on the fundamentals.
“You don’t want to be the person to make that crucial mistake,” Burnette said. “You just go out there and play your best, or try to.”
For Burnette, much of his work ethic has to do with the teams of the past and has no reservations about discussing those teams.
“I was motivated to play by watching them play,” Burnette said.
“Having an older brother play and growing up around the program, he got to witness firsthand the sucess of previous teams and what it meant to be a part of it,” Simmons said. “He learned to respect the tradition and eventually embraced it.”
This year’s team attempted to leave its own mark. With a core group of seniors that have played together since they were kids, the Pirates made it to the second around of the playoffs and had a win against Pinecrest for the first time since 2003.
In the 4-2 win against Pinecrest, Burnette used his size to score two goals off headers to tie the game and Zach Von Rupp and Jace Ward later scored the winners.
It came in handy multiple times as he was utilized in set-piece plays, finishing with five goals and three assists.
Simmons also praised Burnette as an “ambassador” for the program, who often befriends other coaches and players around the state, even after aggressive games.
“He’s never met a stranger, I don’t think,” he said.
Burnette has gotten some looks from colleges but may sacrifice further varsity play in the sport for the sake of his education. He’s specifically looking at North Carolina State University.
Regardless, this year capped off a career that he’s proud of.
“I’m just glad I left my mark,” Burnette “I went out beating Pinecrest, I went out with a great team.
“That’s the best team we’ve had since I’ve been in high school.”