LUMBERTON — After the second summer in a row spent learning a new playbook, the Lumberton football team will get a chance to showcase all the progress its made.
With football practice officially starting today, the Pirates’ first day will conclude with a Midnight Madness event aimed at generating excitement among the Lumberton community.
“Our kids have worked pretty hard to this point,” Lumberton coach Mike Setzer said. “It’s a way to get them some publicity and give the community some football.”
The event is one of three late practices tonight, with St. Pauls and South Robeson having informal practices under the lights.
Lumberton’s Midnight Madness will be more community oriented than a traditional practice. The free event starts at 10 p.m. at Alton G. Brooks Stadium and will include face painting, temporary tattoos, a backdrop for photos, as well as snacks and t-shirts for sale.
The school’s jayvee and varsity cheer squads will be performing and players from every level of the football program will take the field.
“(The crowd) won’t be just sitting there watching a full practice,” Setzer said. “There will be some excitement.”
After the teams get a full practice during the day, Setzer said the late night event will be more abbreviated for the crowd.
“They’ll get an opportunity to see a brief part of practice,” he said.
To the south, Clay Jernigan’s team at South Robeson will have a midnight practice for two Fridays in a row. The Mustangs will be hitting the field at 7:30 p.m. for a two hour practice before they hit the field under the lights at midnight.
“It’s a little different,” Jernigan said. “It gets the kids excited and it’s basically gets the kids two practices in one day.”
Jernigan said it allows the kids to have the whole weekend off instead of taking up part of their Saturday. The Mustangs are also planning a Blue and Gold scrimmage for midnight on Aug. 8 to get the community excited for the upcoming season.
“We are looking to get the community involved, but we aren’t expecting too many people to come to this first one,” he said.
Jernigan did say the kids on the team are looking forward to practicing, but are particularly excited for the scrimmage as well.
“I told them they have to get their days in before they can scrimmage, and they are really excited about the intersquad scrimmage,” he said. “That’s the one thing we are trying to get back to South Robeson is getting the kids excited for it.”
To the north, St. Pauls is also preparing for a midnight practice session, but it will have a different purpose. Athletic director Jeff Fipps says they are working towards getting enough practices for the kids to be able to participate in their first scrimmages, so they will also be taking to the field twice tonight.
“We’re just trying to get the days in,” Fipps said. “We have to have enough days in order to scrimmage on the 11th for the jamboree we have.”
The Bulldogs start practice tonight at 7 before hitting the field again at midnight. Fipps said they will have a meal in between, which will be a good chance for the kids on the team to bond together.
“We’ll break bread and they’ll have a chance to sit around and talk a bit,” he said.
Fairmont will skip the midnight practice this weekend, and instead will be practicing both today and Saturday morning. Coach Randy Ragland and the Tornadoes will be holding their midnight practice on Aug. 8th.
“We just wanted a couple of days under our belt before we do anything,” Ragland said.
Ragland also said the midnight practice is a tradition the kids always look forward to.
“The kids keep asking me about it, and I just continue to do it,” he said. “We get a pretty good showing from the community as well.”
Red Springs, under new coach Ron Cook, will skip midnight practice and go a more traditional route, with practices on Friday morning and Saturday morning to avoid the heat.
Cook said due to the time crunch the team is under, having been hired midway through July, they will be having extra practices on Thursday and Friday next week.
“If I was hired in a normal time, I would not have, but because I was hired late in July, we are going to have two two-a-days next week mostly because we are behind as far as time,” Cook said.
Cook said the team is adjusting well to the new systems he is implementing.
“They know what to expect now,” he said. “They know what to expect when they come to practice. They know it’s different and they’re stepping up.”
Purnell Swett is also avoiding any major events and will have morning practices both today and Saturday.