LUMBERTON — Leading into high school football practice starting on July 31, The Robesonian’s sports reporter Jonathan Bym is publishing a countdown of the top 15 players in Robeson County, and Lumberton’s Montrez Howell comes in at No. 5 on the list.
Howell prepares to take on his senior year as the Pirates’ starting running back, this coming after his first year starting in the backfield last season.
“I’m trying to be better than last year,” Howell said. “It’s all about having the right mind set.”
The junior-year performance that Howell is looking to improve upon was his 819-yard, four-touchdown season that included a rocky finish with Hurricane Matthew interrupting midway through the season. Howell totaled six 100-yard contest, including 136 yards against Overhills.
Around him, the Pirates return key pieces in the backfield and along the offensive line. That coupled with Howell’s improved explosion and elusiveness has coach Mike Setzer ready to see what his starting tailback can do.
“He’s the kind of kid who can prove that he can get open in a phone booth,” Setzer said. “He’s real slippery and hard to tackle. I know he’s going to be a big play kind of guy.”
“All of us are close and we’ve got that mindset that we can be good,” Howell said of the offensive unit.
Despite not reaching the 1,000-yard plateau like Lumberton running backs in recent years had done with ease, Howell sees his room to grow and it starts with bringing the same level of play every time out on the field.
“It feels good to be starting again but I want to be more consistent,” Howell said. “I want to get good runs and score more touchdowns.”
Much like he has told the rest of the senior class, Setzer has issued a challenge to his players playing their final seasons so they play with no reservation this year.
“Next year you’re on the barber shop team and that’s what we talked to them about,” Setzer said. “It’s all about now. I tell them that if they don’t achieve now that don’t worry because next year you’re on the barber shop team.”
Howell is bound and determined to not have regrets when he’s on that team next year.
“I’m trying to leave everything on the field and put my all into it,” he said.