LUMBERTON — Final interviews for Lumberton High School’s football vacancy will be conducted this week in hopes of submitting a name for approval at the next Public Schools of Robeson County board meeting on Jan. 14, LHS athletic director Mackie Register confirmed Saturday afternoon.
Lumberton’s selection committee of Register, principal Larry Obeda and the athletic booster club has trimmed its coaching list to eight finalists from an applicant pool of 30, the culmination of a three-week search that began soon after state championship weekend.
PSRC athletic director Jason Suggs says he will sit in on this week’s meetings with the candidates.
“We’re looking for a guy who’s football-minded and is going to put in the hard work it takes to help our kids sustain a winning program,” Register said. “We’re sincere when we say we want a winning football team here at Lumberton and feel the pieces are in place for that to be possible.
“Experience will play a factor in our decision and we feel we’ve had a good mix of applicants.”
Lumberton’s coming off a 1-10 finish, its worst record since 2005, and saw a six-year streak of reaching the playoffs come to an end. Register hopes the program’s next hire can work hand in hand with the Lumberton Football Association, lead the Pirates back to the postseason and eventually challenge for a Southeastern Conference championship.
Lumberton is expected to return 10 starters on offense and seven on defense this fall.
“Ideally, we’d like to have (a coach) in place for the next semester, but that might be pushing it,” Register said. “We might call some guys back for a second round of interviews after this week and pick the best possible candidate from there. It’s an important hire.”
The Pirates went through a similar process last offseason went Mike Brill announced his retirement. Lumberton zeroed in on West Bladen’s Joe Salas, who was a Red Springs assistant the previous season, but a rocky 0-7 start led to an abrupt midseason resignation.
Under Brill, the Pirates finished .500 or better in league play four times in six years and won three playoff games during that span.
“Our next coach is coming into a good situation,” Register said. “We’ve got a good, disciplined bunch of kids who are willing to work. We’ve got great assistant coaches already here and have added two other coaches since the season ended that will help us tremendously. We’re also pretty good equipment and facility wise through the help of our the booster club and LFA.”
Lumberton’s not releasing names of the finalists, but The Robesonian has learned several coaches with region ties are in the mix this week including a former college assistant.
Removing the interim tag off current coach Ron Cook would be the easiest choice, but Register says all finalists will be given equal opportunity to sell their case. Players are receptive of Cook, a former defensive coordinator at Red Springs and college player at Virginia Tech who assumed head coaching duties at Lumberton on Oct. 17 after Salas resigned.
He earned his first career win — the Pirates’ first of the season — in the finale at Purnell Swett.
Red Springs coach George Coltharp was a finalist last season for the Lumberton gig after leading the Red Devils to their first conference championship in eight years in 2012. Red Springs stumbled to a 2-9 finish this fall however, succumbing to the strength of Three Rivers newcomers Whiteville and South Columbus without the use of a weight training facility.
Coltharp’s interpretation of the Air Raid offense is a near mirror image of the passing attack Lumberton used this season with Salas.
Stephen Roberson’s another local possibility, South Robeson’s second-year coach who helped the Mustangs snap an 11-year streak without a postseason win. Robeson County’s coach of the year preaches defense and utilizes a rush-heavy scheme.
According to sources, other region coaches interested in becoming Lumberton’s next sideline leader include first-year head coaches Jon Sherman from East Chapel Hill and Rodney Barr from Overhills, among others.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.