LUMBERTON — Call it a new beginning.
Since Mike Brill retired following the 2012 season, Lumberton is now under the director of its third head coach. Joe Salas took over from Brill, but lasted just seven games before resigning. Ron Cook stepped into the interim role to close out the year.
The Pirates were 0-7 under Salas and 1-3 with Cook on the sideline. Lumberton’s lone win came in its season finale, a 28-17 victory over its in-county rival, Purnell Swett.
And now the Mike Setzer era is set to begin at Lumberton.
“When I took over the job, from everybody I spoke to from the administration down to the place kicker, we talked about ‘Last year doesn’t exist,’” Setzer said. “I wasn’t involved in last year, so the best thing we can do is totally erase that from our memories and prepare for this season. I wasn’t there. We totally don’t communicate or talk about last season and things like that.
“We try to prepare as these kids winners and that’s what we want them to be. So if we want them to be winners, we prepare as winners. We can’t think about all the negative stuff that came with the program last year.”
Salas attempted to change the environment at Lumberton to the pass-happy Air Raid offense from the Wing-T running attack under Brill. Setzer, who served as an assistant under Brill, informed his team things will change from what they have seen under both of these coaches.
“We are totally different from the other coaches, I told the kids nothing is the same,” Setzer said. “That’s down from practice to offense and defense.
“We want to be about 60-40. Run the ball about 60 percent of the time and throw it 40 percent of the time. Somewhere in between. You might come to a game where we are throwing it 60 percent of the time and run it 40 percent of the time. That’s our mentality. If I could get it where it is equal, I would be happy.”
Lumberton allowed 40.8 points per game in its five conference games last year, while scoring 16.6 points. Things were only slightly better when you include the non-conference schedule. The Pirates scored 16.7 points a game and surrendered 38.5 points.
Despite the 1-10 season and missing the playoffs for the first time in six years, Setzer believes the Pirates will make things interesting in the Southeastern Conference.
“I really believe we are going to be competitive,” Setzer said. “We are 26 returning seniors. Those guys took a lot of lumps last year and they have the drive. I see it in their eyes.”
Setzer added the poor season has lit a fire under his team to turn things around and return to the postseason.
“I think it has been a benefit,” he said. “I worked on one of Coach Brill’s staff there at Lumberton, we had enough kids who came up in his system, so actually the kids had the desire to be in the weight room. We had to push them out of the weight room. And building a new weight room has really helped the matter out. I have been really surprised how motivated the kids were, I thought I would have to motivate them more.”
Among the players Setzer highlighted as keys to the season are: running back Josh Sheridan, defensive back Damien Ness and defensive end Jermaine Williams.
Lumberton will open its season 7:30 p.m. Friday against Douglas Byrd at home.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.