A loss to Hoke County Friday would cloud the postseason picture in what coach Mike Brill has labeled his final season on the sideline. A victory puts Lumberton at 5-2 overall, one victory away from strengthening its wild-card chances should the Pirates finish out of the top four in the final league standings with games against Richmond, Scotland and Purnell Swett remaining.
For seeding purposes, the SEC’s top four finishers are guaranteed a postseason spot. Last year, all six SEC teams made the playoffs based on number of wins. But if the Pirates finish in a tie at the bottom of the conference, things could get tricky for a postseason berth.
“It’s no bigger than the rest of them,” Brill said. “They’re all big in the SEC.”
Lumberton has put last week’s shutout loss to Pinecrest in the rear-view and focused on what it can control down the stretch. Brill appreciates the poise his defense has shown this season, but says the offense — a unit that turned it over four times against the Patriots — has to start converting in the red zone and avoid mistakes deep in its own territory.
The setback in Southern Pines was a surprising defeat in a series dominated by the Pirates and ended Lumberton’s three-game win streak.
“I told Chris (Metzger) Merry Christmas over the weekend because we gave them that ballgame,” Brill said. “We did what we wanted to do on offense but couldn’t get in the end zone. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in a football game, but I’ve never seen something like that. Completely dominate a game but lose 24-0.”
Lumberton’s focus this week has been on the Bucks, a team led by the SEC’s top rusher Detrez Newsome. Newsome has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, opening his senior campaign with a herculean effort against Wilmington Ashley. Newsome gashed the Eagles for a career-high 411 yards and six touchdowns and fueled his school to its first-ever 6-0 start in the non-conference.
Last week against Richmond, though, Newsome was held to 38 yards as Hoke struggled on offense against a quick and athletic defense.
“He’s a heck of back, but we’ve seen him before and hopefully can do something to stop him,” Brill said. “We’ll have our hands full, but we’ll come up with something that should put our players in good position on defense.”
Lumberton limited Newsome to just 10 yards on the ground in last year’s win, the Pirates’ third straight in the series. As a sophomore, Newsome piled up 228 yards on Lumberton’s vaunted 2010 front seven led by all-county stars Jermaine Kesler and Jalaquon McNeill.
“We’ll do everything we can to make someone else beat us,” Brill said. “But we’ve got so many injuries and new faces playing right now, we’re just going to worry about ourselves first. I’ve told the guys to just play hard and play to the whistle. Don’t pay attention to anything else.”