PEMBROKE — There’s no glitz and glamour in beating your rival, only moments of reflection that never leave the memories of the players and coaching staffs involved.
The conversation-starter in Friday’s Backyard Brawl will be Travis Suggs’ rivalry win-clinching interception return for a touchdown with just under three minutes remaining as Lumberton held off Purnell Swett to end a 10-game losing streak this season, 28-17.
“It was just a gut reaction and I made a play,” Suggs said after he stepped in front of a Thristian Lowry pass at the 15-yard line with the Rams trailing by four.
Suggs wrestled the football away from Jordan Chavis and went untouched down the Rams sideline, summoning a tremendous roar from the Pirate faithful that made the trip to Pembroke.
The Rams (3-8, 1-4) were playing for a possible playoff berth — with help from other teams — but instead were out-hustled much of the contest from a previously winless adversary. It was the Pirates’ first win on the road in the rivalry since 2002.
“It’s extremely disappointing that we weren’t as excited or motivated to go out and play,” Swett coach Mark Heil said. “I give Lumberton credit, they wanted to win the football game more than we did.”
When 4A playoff matchups are released Saturday, it’ll be the first time in more than a decade that both of Robeson County’s 4A football teams won’t extend their seasons an extra week. For Lumberton, however, the win saved an otherwise disappointing campaign.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Suggs said. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”
Lumberton responded with two goal line stands in the game, the second coming at the 10-minute mark nursing a four-point lead. Facing a 4th-and-goal from the 1, Swett’s Triston Jacobs was stopped short of the end zone by Demetri Sheridan.
“We can’t run the football,” Heil said. “We got out-muscled up front and that’s been the problem all year.”
Much-maligned for the lack of defense played by the Pirates this season, interim coach Ron Cook’s unit saved its best for last to stop the Rams.
“It’s the best all-around game we played all year, both sides of the ball,” Cook said after his first career victory. “For those seniors to go out with a win over Swett means everything.”
Senior wideout Bryan Carpenter’s 95-yard, two-touchdown outing that will linger with the Swett secondary throughout the offseason, thanks to a pair of broke coverages. Carpenter’s 40-yard touchdown reception with 1:58 left in the third quarter gave the Pirates a lead they would not relinquish.
During last year’s Backyard Brawl, also a Lumberton win, Carpenter sealed it with a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown.
In a contest marred by penalties Friday night, the Pirates were the recipient of most.
Three times in the second half, Lumberton had Swett stopped short on third down but was whistled for penalties that moved the sticks. At one point in the third quarter, Lumberton faced a 4th-and-50 after multiple unsportsmanlike penalties forced a field goal situation into a lengthy punt.
A slew of penalties were called on both sides in the first half including three ineligible receivers down field on the Pirates, multiple personal fouls and a clip on Garrett Hammonds’ 40-yard interception return for Swett that negated a late second-quarter touchdown.
The Pirates had over 150 yards in penalties, a season-high.
“They kept fighting, wanted to win,” Heil said.
Lumberton’s Josh Sheridan scored the game’s first touchdown on a 29-yard run after the Pirates’ drive started near midfield with a fumble recovery. On 4th-and-4, Sheridan took the shotgun handoff up the middle and raced to the far left pylon for the score.
The Rams converted a 4th-and-1 and a 3rd-and-10 inside the Lumberton 40 on their next drive to set up Thristian Lowry’s 12-yard touchdown slant to Tyler Maynor. Triston Hunt’s PAT went wide left.
Cook, Lumberton’s defensive-minded interim coach, took over on Oct. 17 after first-year coach Joe Salas was relieved of his duties following an 0-7 start. Cook has said he’ll apply for the opening when Lumberton officials begin their search
The Pirates return most of their playmakers to next year’s team including Sheridan, Foley and Suggs, an all-county defensive back candidate Travis Suggs.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.
Lumberton 28, Swett 17
Lumberton 7 7 7 7 — 28
Purnell Swett 0 17 0 0 — 17
LHS — Josh Sheridan 29 run (kick good)
PS — Tyler Maynor 12 pass from Thristian Lowry (kick failed)
PS — Triston Hunt 23 Field Goal
LHS — Bryan Carpenter 48 pass from Auston Foley (Ward kick)
PS — Triston Jacobs 2 run (Lowry run)
LHS — Carpenter 40 pass from Foley (kick good)
LHS — Travis Suggs 85 interception return (kick good)
PASSING: LHS — Foley 16-24-1-211. PS — Lowry 15-29-1-169.
RECEIVING: LHS — Carpenter 5-95, Alonzo 4-35. PS — Maynor 9-135.
RECORDS: Purnell Swett 3-8, 1-4; Lumberton 1-10, 1-4.