PEMBROKE — Despite posting a 3-8 overall record and a 1-4 mark in conference play last season, Purnell Swett coach Mark Heil thought his team was close to being a playoff team.
The Rams were outscored by their opponents by an average by 31.8 to 18.4. In Southeastern Conference action, it was worse. The opposition averaged 38.8 points a game, while the Rams managed just 15.6.
Heil said unlike in years past when Purnell Swett battled its opponents to the final whistle, it has been a struggle recently. Heil added he believes there is a ray of hope with the season opener at Pine Forest just a week away.
“We were 3-8 last year and I thought there were three games that we could have won,” Heil said. “We could have possibly made the playoffs and we didn’t. We didn’t finish. We didn’t play in the fourth quarter the way we traditionally have played in the fourth quarter. If we can play and get into the fourth quarter, our kids have got to find a way to win and not find a way to lose.
“That’s a belief and that’s knowing that you know you are confident. So hopefully that can build and we can get there.”
Heil returns Thrisitan Lowry at quarterback along with two targets at wide receiver — Josh Brooks and Jordan Chavis. In addition Aaron Barton and Travon Ingram will anchor the offensive line for the Rams.
“We don’t have great athletes, we don’t have any, but we have some good football players,” Heil said. “Hopefully we can put it together.”
On defense, Josh Jacobs was highlighted as a player to watch.
Heil said he has seen a change in his team’s attitude during camp and hopes it can carry over into games.
“It’s a lot better now…we got our confidence back and our little swagger back,” Heil said. “It’s not just happened last year, it’s over the last two years. We’ve only won five games in the last two years. We’ve been pretty competitive the other years. We just lost that swagger, that belief in winning and our physicalness. Purnell Swett always played tough, physical football, that’s why I always liked working down there. We’ve lost that too. So when things go bad, it all goes bad. The main thing I like about our kids is that they are a team. They are a unit, the best we had in quite a few years. I love our leadership and I think everything we are going to do, we are going to do as a team.”
After opening its season on the road with Pine Forest, Purnell Swett will have home games with Red Springs and Hoggard. It will play at New Hanover and Anson before closing out the non-conference slate against North Brunswick at “Big” Mo Stadium.
“We’ve got some really tough people to play three out of our four first games,” Heil said. “(We have to) play better, make plays. Make plays, don’t lay down, if someone knocks you down, don’t lay there, get back up. It’s a gradual thing, I’m really hoping for some early success those first two, three, four weeks. At least playing more competitive and hopefully winning. Winning helps a lot.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.