LUMBERTON — Lumberton football coach Mike Setzer wants his team to play faster than before when it hits the field this fall, but he knows that to getting to a faster speed requires precision to make sure it is done right.
Building a foundation to work its speed up step-by-step is the plan for Lumberton with the beginning step starting in the spring practice session that started last week and ends next Tuesday. Over 70 Pirates that make up the varsity and jayvee teams have taken part in the helmet-only workouts that range from offensive and defensive unit drills to positional drills in a more cerebral workout, rather than physical.
“We can put on pads but we feel like it is more important to try and get them to play fast,” Setzer said. “We’re going to play a little faster this year. Being that we’re going to play faster, we need to be able to practice faster.”
With changes at the offensive and defensive coordinator positions, the spring practice session is being used as an installation period to help out with the coaching changes for the Pirates.
“Right now, we are installing everything offensive and defensive schemes,” Setzer said. “We’re going back and making sure we are teaching it correctly and building a foundation.”
The Pirates are coming off a 5-6 season and bring back several weapons on both sides of the ball. Highlighting the offensive side is rising sophomore quarterback Braylan Grice who tossed for 1,327 yards and 10 touchdown passes.
“At this point now, it’s scary, but he looks 100 percent better this year than he did last year,” Setzer said.
Tae Stephens, Kanyon Lambert and Montrez Howell are other returners that Setzer says has shown improvement since last fall.
Spring practice also brings out new faces including newcomers Stephon Lloyd, who is playing football for the first time in high school, and Blake Musslewhite.
Although some of the teaching will be lost between the spring and summer practice sessions, Setzer hopes the spring session will help make the transition smoother entering the preseason practices.
“This is for summer so what we are installing right now is to make us have a happier summer, a more efficient summer,” he said. “When summer starts, we will go back like its the first day of spring again.”
With this being the second year that North Carolina high schools have had spring practices, the teaching elements are very valuable considering there isn’t much time to do so with the blistering pace that the regular season goes by with.
“We’re really excited about spring ball because it allows us to be teachers,” Setzer said. “During the season, you get to teach but you’ve got it move because the game’s on Friday.”
Spring practice concludes for the Pirates on May 24 with their spring game that is free and open to the public that runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This is the first report in a series of six on the high school football teams in Robeson County.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.