Lumberton Pirates a team in transition

Posted August 14, 2013

The Lumberton High School Pirates have been a consistently successful football program in the Southeastern 4A conference for years. Now with a new coach and a new philosophy, they are trying to keep it that way.

Former Pirate coach Mike Brill, who coached football in Robeson County for 16 years, retired at the end of last season.

Brill and the Pirates recorded a 5-6 record last season before falling in the first round of the state playoffs to Jack Britt. Prior to last season, the Pirates enjoyed four consecutive winning seasons.

Enter Joe Salas, who will attempt to bring the Pirates back to their winning ways this season as the team's new head coach.

"Our brand of football is all about commitment, sacrifice and discipline," Salas said. "We're bringing some structure that wasn't here in the past."

Salas will replace the Pirates' run-heavy offense with a more pass-focused approach in 2013. Finding personnel will be the challenge. The Pirates return seven defensive starters from last year, but no offensive starters.

"We've got a bunch of eggs that haven't hatched yet," Salas said of his current team. "We're still incubating right now."

The first step for the Pirates will be finding a capable quarterback who can handle running the new offense. The team graduated last year's starter, Jezreelite Deese.

While no starters at offensive skill positions return, the Pirates will have rising-junior Josh Sheridan, who is a threat to score on the ground or as a pass-catcher. He ranked third in all-purpose yards for Lumberton last season as a sophomore.

Demetri Sheridan can also hurt offenses as a rusher or receiver. The rising-senior also plays defense and ranked third on the team in tackles in 2012.

Much of Lumberton's success this year will depend on how players respond to Salas and how the coach manages to find new offensive players to work in his system. If history indicates anything, it is that Salas will be able to spark an improvement in the program.

From 2004-2010, Salas coached at South Johnston and recorded an overall 45-41 record. In 2009, his South Johnston team went 14-2 and made an appearance in the 3A state championship, losing to South Point 42-28.

In 2011, Salas was an assistant coach at Red Springs before moving to become head coach of West Bladen in 2012. Salas has becoming known for taking over struggling programs and developing players to create growth.

At the time of his hiring, Salas mentioned that the Lumberton coaching positions was always one that was on his radar, due to the quality and competitiveness of conference opponents.

In the Southeastern 4A conference, Salas and Lumberton face Scotland County, Richmond County, Hoke County, Pinecrest and Purnell Swett. Many consider the conference to be one of the best in North Carolina.

The Lumberton Pirates open the 2013 football season against Douglas Byrd on Aug. 23. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT


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