Surrounded by players, parents and a good number of Lumberton fans that made the short trip, the 30-year coaching veteran hugged everyone he could before boarding the bus home. The final game of his career, a 28-14 setback, didn’t sting as bad as the reality check of no more football.
“I will take my group over any group out there just because of how hard we play,” Brill said. “I’ve had some real good youngins and these are some of the best.”
Flanked by his wife, Beth, and two daughters, Morgan and Logan, Brill was too choked up to answer what he plans to do with his now vacant fall Friday nights. His 43 wins in six seasons at Lumberton ranks second all-time at the school behind Tunney Brooks.
For the third time in four years, the Pirates’ season ended on the Buccaneers’ home field.
“Our players did what we asked and left it all out there,” Brill said. “They out-athleted us a couple times and that was the difference.”
Down by two touchdowns with six minutes left and the ball inside Britt’s 15-yard line, Lumberton quarterback Jez Dees was sacked on 4th-and-5 ending the Pirates’ comeback chance. The Buccaneers scored 21 answered points in the contest after the Pirates jumped ahead 14-7 in the opening quarter.
Britt took a 21-14 lead into halftime when Mark McRae found Chris Magee in the back of the end zone for a 31-yard score with 14 seconds left in the second quarter. In position to make a play on the pass, the ball slipped through the fingers of Lumberton safety Travis Suggs at the goal line and into Magee’s arms.
The Buccaneers tied the game at 14 on the previous drive when McRae hit Jalen McDaniel in stride for a 41-yard touchdown. Britt accumulated more than 450 yards of offense and averaged over 10 yards per play. Neither team turned the ball over.
“If we don’t let the big one happen there before the end of the half, maybe it’s different,” Brill said. “We had a good game plan and we gave it the best we had. That’s all I can ask.”
Lumberton senior running back Daniel Robinson kept the Pirates within striking distance throughout, gashing the opposition for 164 yards on 23 carries. He scored both of his team’s touchdowns, the first capping off a 4-play, 48-yard drive to open the game. Britt answered in two plays to tie the game at seven before Robinson spun off a defender on the ensuing possession for a 21-yard score.
Robinson was one of many players with his head in his hands after the final horn.
“These kids have been great,” Brill said. “I’m a proud coach.”