All the anticipation from a nine-month offseason ends Friday night as high school football around the state kicks off a new season.
The slate of games feature rematches of last year’s season openers and in those games Robeson County teams went 2-4, with one win coming by forfeit. Looking to start off this season on the right foot, there is revenge on the mind of some of the four teams who lost in their first games last year.
Winning the opening game is of the utmost importance for teams right now, but a loss does not mean the end of the season. Two of the four teams from Robeson County that are coming off appearances in the NCHSAA state playoffs lost their season openers, including Fairmont who went on to finish the season with the deepest run in the playoffs of all the teams in the county.
The two teams that missed out on postseason play last season, St. Pauls and Purnell Swett, are both showing signs of having a rebound season this fall with new coaches on the coaching staffs.
Westover at Fairmont
Fairmont coach Mark Heil said his team going into his first game with the program last year against Westover was very unprepared as the Wolverines claimed a 52-26 win. This year he said that won’t happen again with leaders and play makers on both sides of the ball. The Golden Tornadoes are coming off an 11-3 season that ended with a third round appearance in the state playoffs.
Red Springs at Sandhills Titans
Following last year’s 52-6 win to open the season over Sandhills Titans, Red Springs reeled off five more wins to start the season at 6-0. The experienced Red Devils and third-year coach Ron Cook will look to duplicate that start this season and make a third straight appearance in the state playoffs after going 8-4 last season.
Hunt at Lumberton
Lumberton scored 20 points in the fourth quarter last year at Hunt, but fell short 28-20. Third-year coach Mike Setzer said that was a game that his team had a good chance at winning and this year’s team is the “most talented” he has had at Lumberton. The Pirates are coming off a 5-7 season with a playoff appearance, their first since 2012.
West Bladen at South Robeson
South Robeson won by forfeit over West Bladen last year and the decision helped the Mustangs secure a spot in the state playoffs. Going into his third season with the program, coach Clay Jernigan has seen his young team bring a new attitude and energy to practices and workouts and hopes that’s a good sign for his team following a 2-10 campaign last fall that ended in the first round of the state playoffs.
Grays Creek at St. Pauls
St. Pauls coach Ernest King enters his first season and is making sure his team is putting the 3-8 record from last season behind them and that includes the season-opening 55-6 loss to Grays Creek last year. King has brought changes on and off the field to the program in hopes of getting the Bulldogs back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Purnell Swett at Pine Forest
Pine Forest handed Purnell Swett a 30-0 loss last year in the season opener en route to a 2-9 season, but the Rams have a new look from the players to the coaching staff. Robbie Brown joins the staff as the offensive coordinator after serving that position at Dillon for 29 years and will handle the offensive play calling, allowing head coach Jon Sherman to focus solely on the defense. The Rams’ last playoff appearance came in 2011.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.