PEMBROKE — Laser-like precision to detail is what the Purnell Swett football team has had to set its bearing to this spring under third-year head coach Jon Sherman.
Coming off a 3-8 season in 2016, the Rams have the same full staff for back-to-back offseasons for the first time since 2014 and signs have pointed up.
“The emphasis has been discipline, the focus of discipline. That’s because last year we had good times, but somebody would do something wrong or wasn’t focused so it hurt us,” Sherman said. “The focus was all 70 out there doing the right thing.”
While experience comes back for Purnell Swett in the skill positions and outside the trenches on defense. The approach to teaching the younger lineman has started from the basics.
“That’s what spring has been about,” Sherman said. “It’s been about footwork and tenacity. I want to know how you step and where you’re going.”
Sherman said there’s been competition for the open positions and points to depth with large numbers showing up for the positions on both sides of the ball.
“The guys we thought could do it have stepped up, have done a great job, have been on point,” Sherman said. “We might be young at that position, but should have depth.”
Lumberton comes off a 4-7 season last year and elected, like St. Pauls, to have more practices with its set number of players to make up for lost time. The lost time is what coach Mike Setzer said comes from the practices and games missed because of Hurricane Matthew last fall.
“We lost a lot of time with the guys, especially with our jayvee, and we are hoping the 21-player rule will allow us to focus more on them,” Setzer said. “The more days really helps us individualize to the kids.”
The individualized approach is mainly for the younger players, but also as a refresher for the returners on offense and defense, while the offense’s inexperience is using the time to help make sure no beat is missed by the unit.
“On defense we return a lot of experience and that’s where we have turned our focus to the speed,” Setzer said.“The varsity offense is where I think we will reload instead of rebuild.”
The numbers have been a little low for South Robeson, who elected to do the 21-man workouts, but the lack of quantity comes with an increase in quality.
“The ones that have been out there have worked hard,” South Robeson coach Clay Jernigan said. “There has been a lot of younger ones, including my quarterback that has surprised me and has grew up.”
Tyler Locklear saw most of the time at quarterback last year and with a year under his belt Jernigan has seen him show a lot of maturity with his hard work ethic.
“He has not missed anything that we have done,” Jernigan said. “He is hard working and has been a leader and that’s something you want to depend on.”
On top of the play at quarterback, the returners on the offensive line have set a tone that he hopes will carry over to the fall, with the younger players following suit.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.