Shiver me timbers, the Pirates came to play ball Friday night. And by “timbers,” please understand “Pine Forest.”
Lumberton began this season with a long trek north to Wilson where Mike Setzer’s squad narrowly lost to Hunt. In Friday’s foray to the north end of Fayetteville, the Pirates once again had to come from behind. But this time they pulled it out for the win.
They also showed versatility. Freshman quarterback Braylon Grice, who was sensational against Hunt, had less impressive numbers in the air this week.
But Troy Mitchell’s 242-yard performance with three rushing touchdowns more than made up the difference. And Grice got into the rushing act himself, scrambling for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, key Lumberton players had to step up in the second half to allow for the comeback. Helping out were Jordan Gibson with an interception and five tackles, Byrce Swindell with 12 tackles and Thomas Evans with four tackles and causing a fumble.
The Pirates and their fans will undoubtedly be pleased to have them finally at home on Sept. 4 as they face South Views.
Lumberton has been impressive on both sides of the ball and has shown great tenacity in each game so far.
Opponents had better watch out. Win or lose, this team appears unafraid to take on all challengers. They’re going to battle until the clock hits zero in every game. And it’s going to be fun to watch.
But at 1-1, the Pirates don’t possess the best record in Robeson County. That honor belongs to the Red Devils of Red Springs.
While impressive in their first outing against Little Sisters of the Poor (otherwise known as the Sandhills Titans, a ministry team), the Devils had their work cut out for them in the second week against county rival Purnell Swett, a 4A school.
To the Rams’ credit, the game was close through the second half, but big plays on both sides of the ball helped ensure a Red Devil victory, their first against the team from Pembroke.
Red Springs quarterback Toddrick Lockhart threw for two touchdowns, following up on his strong performance in the Devils’ opening game.
Deondre Hollman, a multi-position player came up a with a huge play on special teams for Red Springs, blocking a Purnell Swett field goal attempt.
And the Red Devil defense kept taking the ball away from the Rams.
Coach Ron Cook named Jerome Bass the player of the game after he recovered a fumble, sacked Purnell Swett’s quarterbacks twice and had three other tackles for negative Ram yardage.
Also coming up big on defense for Red Springs were Damian Hunt, who returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, and Caleb Locklear who had both a fumble recovery and an interception.
The win has to be a huge confidence boost for Red Springs ahead of the Devils’ Sept. 4 game when they host Harrells Christian.
The game had the opposite outcome for Purnell Swett, which has played well at times in both games, but been unable to demonstrate consistency.
But the Rams will have a good chance to get into the winning column next week with they travel to Rowland to play county rival South Robeson, which has struggled to decisive losses in each of its first two games.
That’s not to say the Mustangs should be counted out. They haven’t given up without a struggle and there have been some signs of promise.
Jordan Strickland posted the county’s biggest special teams play of the week Friday with a 75-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown.
When running back Darrius Brown ran in the 2-point conversion, they appeared ready to roll.
But despite solid offensive performances from Brown and running back Nakieth Adams, the Mustangs never put up any more points. Worse, the Mustang defense was never able to stop the Trask scoring machine.
Against the Ram offense, which has not shown an ability to locate the endzone, South Robeson’s defensive troubles could be less problematic. Or that could work out the other way around.
The more interesting question may be whether the South Robeson offense will break through against a Ram defense that has shown signs of excellent play at times.
Either way, one of those teams will come away with a win to start September.
The St. Pauls Bulldogs can be forgiven if they come away from Friday’s game feeling especially unlucky.
In their first game against Grays Creek, the Bulldogs appeared lethargic and unfocused. They looked like a completely different team through most of the first quarter in Friday’s home opener against Douglas Byrd.
After forcing an Eagle turnover, St. Pauls’ skilled quarterback Cody McKenna found James Patterson open. He then turned up the field and sped past the outstretched arms of Eagle defenders to score a 37-yard touchdown.
When McKenna scored two points with a keeper, the Bulldogs seemed likely to dominate the game.
But two things alterred that possible outcome.
First, sloppy play made for an ugly game in which turnovers and substantial penalties seemed to matter as much as yardage gained on the field. And though both sides were involved, the Bulldogs appeared to get the worst of it and the worst times in the game.
Second and far more serious, two key injuries toward the end of the first quarter changed the entire complexion of the game. Wide receiver Tim Billinger was sidelined first. Then McKenna.
After that the offense sputtered for the Bulldogs.
And the defense played its best through the second quarter, but was clearly wearing down in the second half. Heroics from defenders like Chris Ray and Lamonte Melvin helped stop Eagle ball carriers. But Byrd runners kept slogging it out, usually finding ways to pick up the first down.
The outlook for the Bulldog season will depend on the health assessment for McKenna and Billinger.
St. Pauls will be at home Sept. 4 against East Bladen, which is coming off a big win over Whiteville on Friday.
The remaining Robeson County team, Fairmont was off this week after dropping its opening game on the road at Westover. The Tornadoes will host Wilmington Ashley on Sept. 4.
Robeson County Top Performers
Notable achievements during Aug. 28 high school football games. (Detailed statistics were not available for all schools.)
— Troy Mitchell, Lumberton, RB, 24 rushes for 242 yards, 3 touchdowns
— Braylon Grice, Lumberton, QB, 41 yards passing, 61 yards rushing with 1 touchdown
— Toddrick Lockhart, Red Springs, QB, two touchdown passes
— Cody McKenna, St. Pauls, QB, 39 yards passing with a touchdown, 1 rushing 2-point conversion (left game in 1st quarter with an injury)
— James Patterson, St. Pauls, WR, 2 receptions for 44 yards, 1 touchdown
— Nakieth Adams, South Robeson, RB, 11 rushes for 62 yards
— Darrius Brown, South Robeson, RB, 13 rushes for 54 yards, 1 2-point conversion
— Trey Thompson, St. Pauls, RB, 6 rushes for 43 yards
— Jerome Bass, Red Springs, 2 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss, 1 fumble recovery
— Byrce Swindell, Lumberton, 6 solo tackles, 6 assisted tackles
— Damian Hunt, Red Springs, 1 interception returned 37 yards for touchdown
— Jordan Gibson, Lumberton, 3 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 interception
— Thomas Evans, Lumberton, 2 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 fumble caused
— Lamonte Melvin, St. Pauls, 5 solo tackles, 1 sack
— Chris Ray, St. Pauls, 4 solo tackles, 3 assisted tackles
— Shadix Ralston, Lumberton, 3 solo tackles, 2 sacks for 20 yards lost
— Caleb Locklear, Red Springs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception
— Tyleik Brown, Lumberton, 2 solo tackles, 3 assisted tackles
— Jordan Strickland, South Robeson, 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown
— Deondre Hallman, Red Springs, blocked field goal
Reach Robesonian sports editor Frank Taylor at 910-816-1977 or email him at [email protected]