“I’m proud of the character in these kids,” Heil said. “Although it’s been one of our worst seasons here, these guys have come to practice every day and done what I’ve asked of them. Maybe we can end the season on a high note Friday night.”
Heading into 2013 with its fourth straight win over rival Lumberton would also all but eliminate the Pirates’ playoff chances, prematurely ending what figures to be Mike Brill’s final season on the sideline.
“I’m sure it’ll be a great game, very emotional, always is,” Heil said. “Those kids over there want to send Mike out with a win and our guys would like to make a positive step toward the future.”
It’ll be easier said than done for Swett who will miss the postseason for the first time since 2002 with seven losses in nine games. The Rams haven’t beaten a 4A team this season and like the Pirates, are winless in the Southeastern Conference. Turnovers for both teams have led to an O-for-October and the Rams have scored just 10 offensive touchdowns all season.
Tailback Andrew Hill was lost for the year in the SEC opener with an ankle injury and quarterback Jeremiah Swett was dismissed from the team before the matchup with the Bucks. Without a bevy of talent on offense like recent seasons, points have come at a premium.
“We don’t have a guy that can take it 80 yards,” Heil said. “We’ve just not been a very good football team on offense. We’ve played much better these last two weeks, but it’s too late for us.”
Heil saw a glimmer of hope in last week’s loss at Hoke County and said the final score wasn’t indicative of how the Rams “dominated the line of scrimmage” after intermission. Swett held Detrez Newsome under 100 yards and outscored the Bucks in the second half. If not for five turnovers that Hoke turned into 21 points according to Heil, the outcome may have been different.
“It’s the best our offensive line has looked all year,” Heil said. “But we gave them three touchdowns. Good teams don’t do that. We’ve made the same mistakes all season. But our guys are trying.”
Replacement quarterback Josh Brooks who started the Rams’ season opener at Pine Forest, threw and touchdown pass and finished with 141 yards of total offense. Swett’s ability to mix things up without mistakes is a key against a hard-nosed Lumberton defense.
“Josh did some nice things against hope and we need that to continue,” Heil said. “Every player on our team needs to try to make a play.”
Rivalry’s recent history
Since the Swett-Lumberton game was famously dubbed the Backyard Brawl prior to the 2010 game, the Rams have won each of the last three meetings in a variety of ways.
Last season’s matchup, the BB III, had postseason implications similar to Friday night’s significance. At 5-5 overall and 1-3 in the SEC, the Rams needed a victory in Pembroke to secure a playoff game and they delivered.
Senior tailback Dillon Hunt, who now plays at UNCP, rushed for a career-high 189 yards as Swett ran its way to a 25-7 win. The previous season at Lumberton, the Pirates never got anything going offensively but benefited from a fumble return in the third quarter to stay in the game. Lumberton kicker Connor Haskins gave his team a 17-16 lead with 3:23 left in the game before quarterback Chase Armstrong and the Rams responded with a scoring drive of their own to seal the deal in a 22-17 victory.
During the drive, Rams receiver Jason Hunt made an incredible 38-yard reception in double coverage on third down, one of the most memorable individual plays in the rivalry’s history. Lumberton’s lost seven of its last eight against Swett since being ahead in the series prior to 2004.
“It’s always been a good rivalry for the two biggest schools in Robeson County,” Heil said. “Last year, I thought we had momentum coming into the game and that really helped us. The year before that, Mike missed the game and they never really were the same team. I know Mike has said in the past that my kids seem to play harder in this game, but I don’t know what it is.”
Multiple attempts to reach Brill, who could be coaching his final game, were unsuccessful.
Mark Heil vs. Mike Brill, head-to-head (Swett vs. Lumberton only)
2007 — Swett 27, Lumberton 7 (in Pembroke)
2008 — Lumberton 30, Swett 21 (in Lumberton)
2009 — Swett 32, Lumberton 30 (in Pembroke) *First 'Backyard Brawl'
2010 — Swett 22, Lumberton 17 (in Lumberton)
2011 — Swett 25, Lumberton 7 (in Pembroke)
Head Coaching Resume (Robeson County record only)
Mark Heil: 1988-93, 2007-current at Swett — 82 wins, 54 losses
Mike Brill: 1992-01 at South Robeson — 90 wins, 35 losses; 2007-current at Lumberton — 42 wins, 29 losses