LUMBERTON — Last year? That was a rebuilding year, Lumberton head football coach Mike Setzer explains.
This year? He believes his Pirates are on the brink of being a powerhouse team.
The SEC is a tough conference. Lumberton will wrap up October with a trip to Richmond County and a Senior Night hosting Scotland County. Both schools are consistently among the best football programs in the state and often part of the title conversation.
The Raiders enter the season ranked #21 in the state according to MaxPreps. The Scots are #4. They place Lumberton just within the state’s top 100.
But Setzer expects his squad to show opponents something different this season. Fellow coaches have picked the Pirates to finish third in the SEC. Setzer may have his sights set a bit higher.
What’s different? For starters, the Pirate offense will be spearhead by a new quarterback.
How new? Freshman Braylon Grice will be 13 years old as the season begins.
The coach is confident that Grice can do the job and says his young quarterback deserves the protection that his veteran offensive line, full of upperclassmen, will provide. Senior offensive lineman Pete Townsend will help lead this group, which is among the biggest in the conference.
Grice will have a range of weapons to choose from in the Pirate spread offense, which the team is more familiar with after its institution last season.
Setzer says the team’s “most dangerous” threat will be senior running back Troy Mitchell. Mitchell has big shoes to fill in the backfield with the departure of Josh Sheridan, the 2014 SEC Player of the Year, who will now play for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
But with nine starters returning on offense, the coach is confident of their ability to coordinate plays with better control, running multiple sets.
Generally the Pirates will expect to run first, pass second, Setzer said. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be afraid to pass.
Setzer says he’s “pleasantly happy” with his receiving team, including senior Josh Smith who has made the transition from quarterback to wide receiver. Senior wide receiver Jamarie Fletcher also has the ability to make big plays for Lumberton, the coach says.
On the other side of the ball, the Pirate defensive line is the strongest component, Setzer says, with three returning starters. They’re anchored by senior Monteris Cromartie, whose weight-room accomplishments make him the strongest single player for Lumberton.
The line will offer solid consistency. But beyond that, expect to see a new Pirate defensive system that catches opponents off their guards. Setzer says it emphasizes deception and aggressiveness.
The team is still learning aspects of the system, but the coach believes they’ve bought into it. Now they are seeing how the pieces of the puzzle work together to form a full picture, he says.
Not every high school spends much time on special teams, but Setzer says his squad takes pride in this part of the game.
Sophomore Will Osman will take on field-goals and extra points as well as some of the punting this season.
Perhaps a bigger change is an added role for assistant coach Jaime Bell, as special teams coordinator, working regularly with players on special teams situations.
Setzer believes the team was hurt by poor performance on kickoffs last year.
He’s not out to pull off gimmick plays, but to be prepared for opponents who do.
“We don’t do a lot of tricking, but we know you have to be ready,” he said.
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