Imagine if Lumberton can fix the slow starts

By CAMAL PETRO,

As I stood on the sidelines in Stringer, Mississippi last Friday night, I watched the Red Devils go through pregame warm-ups and thought, “Wow. They look pretty good.”

It’s not too often a 1A school has a legit passing attack, and both Lumberton and Stringer can move the ball through the air effectively. On the first drive of the game, the Red Devils moved down the field with ease, but penalties backed them up to prevent a score.

After a Lumberton safety, Stringer scored quickly to put Lumberton behind the 8-ball. Bad starts to games have become a recurring theme for the Panthers, and it’s something they’ll have to fix soon because the playoffs begin next week.

Lumberton fell behind to Taylorsville, Sacred Heart, Resurrection and Stringer the past four games, but it came back to win the last of those three games. I think that says a lot about what kind of team Lumberton has and how they bounce back from adversity.

Trailing 12-0 to Resurrection, a team Lumberton has had to leap over the last two seasons to win district titles, the Panthers regrouped and outscored the Eagles 26-10 the remainder of the game. Last week against Stringer, I didn’t see any panic on the sidelines when Stringer dominated the first six minutes of the game.

“I just said, ‘We have to have a short memory,’” Lumberton quarterback Jared Tribett said in an interview following the win over Stringer. “That’s the main thing about football. You have to have a short memory.”

Lumberton coach Zach Jones joked about how his team has started slowly after the game, too.

“Hey, we went from a bad half at Sacred Heart to a quarter against Resurrection and we shut it down for maybe a half a quarter (against Stringer),” he said. “Maybe we can get that fixed to where we don’t do that anymore.”

Imagine when Lumberton strings together four straight quarters of high-quality football. It’ll be dangerous when that happens, and I’m willing to bet that’ll happen this Friday.

Lumberton will host senior night Friday with a winless Salem team coming to town, and I’m not trying to add to the struggles, but this should be a game that gets the Panthers rolling into the playoffs. If they can’t put four quarters together Friday, then there might be an underlying issue.

In the postseason, Lumberton might see Stringer again. The Red Devils are a good football team, and they could have very well won Friday night, but if Lumberton would have started the game a little better, the win might have been a little easier for the Panthers.

The way the bracket is set up, a Nanih Waiya-Stringer matchup would be in the second round, so the Panthers wouldn’t have to go through two of the better teams in the South in hopes for a return trip to the 1A State Championship. Of course, French Camp or Resurrection will be waiting for the Panthers, assuming they can get by either Vardaman or Leake County.

The 1A South is stacked this year. Anytime Resurrection is a No. 3 seed, then you know every game will be a challenge. Lumberton has been there before, so staying focused will be the biggest factor for the defending 1A South Champions.

“We have to take care of us.” That has been Jones’ mantra for his team since he’s been the head coach, and it holds true.