Fans at Lumberton and Fairmont will see a lot of it next season.
West Bladen’s Joe Salas and West Johnston’s Randy Ragland were approved by the Public Schools of Robeson County during a closed session Tuesday night to become the Pirates’ and Golden Tornadoes’ next head football coaches, replacing a pair that resigned at the end of the season.
Salas spent seven seasons at South Johnston before joining George Coltharp’s staff at Red Springs in 2011. In his only campaign at West Bladen last fall, the Knights went 0-11 trying to master a new system. Ragland previously called plays at Fuquay-Varina and Middle Creek before leading West Johnston to 14 wins over the last three seasons as head coach.
Both passing gurus will install the fan-friendly Air Raid attack at their respective schools. The addition of two offensive-minded coaches means five of the area’s six high schools will run the spread next season.
“These two guys have a lot of experience and great enthusiasm,” county athletic director Jason Suggs said. “Joe and Randy both run an offense that is kid-friendly and fun to watch. It brings a lot of excitement to the game.”
Fairmont athletic director Michael Baker emphasized throughout his committee’s search that the Golden Tornadoes were looking for someone who interacts with the local community and best fits the team’s returning personnel. Ragland’s spread-based offense is similar to what the Golden Tornadoes have used the last two years under Keith Wood and James Atkinson.
With a number of returning starters on offense, notably quarterback Jarrod Neal and X-Z wide receivers Shemar Barfield and Chais Tolbert, Ragland expects to make good use of Fairmont’s weapons. When reached by phone Tuesday night, Ragland said he was excited about the opportunity but declined further comment until he meets with his administration this morning at West Johnston.
Ragland interviewed for the job Monday along with a handful of others. Fairmont’s remaining interviews took place Tuesday.
At Lumberton, Salas’ task is to make a 180-degree turnaround in coaching philosophies — flipping from the Wing-T to the Air Raid — yet continue to build on Mike Brill’s winning foundation. The Pirates threw very few passes during Brill’s six-year tenure, but were a postseason mainstay that relied on defense and clock management as opposed to an up-tempo attack.
“One of the guys that interviewed this week referred to the Air Raid as basketball on grass,” Suggs said. “Even the pro teams are starting to incorporate elements of the spread. It should make for an exciting football season in Robeson County.”
Noteworthy finalists for the Lumberton job included Red Springs’ George Coltharp, ex-Terry Sanford coach Wayne Inman and St. Pauls assistant Mike Setzer. North Stokes’ Jason Lippard and Lumberton’s Clay Jernigan interviewed at Fairmont among several others.