Heading in opposite directions, Lumberton hosts Sacred Heart

By CAMAL PETRO,

The Lumberton Panthers have been in this situation before entering Friday night’s game against Sacred Heart. After losing to Taylorsville in 2017, the Panthers traveled to Hattiesburg to play the Crusaders and Sacred Heart “checked out oil,” as Lumberton coach Zach Jones put it.

After playing a close first half, Lumberton dominated the second half to win big, but Sacred Heart still played tough enough to put a scare in Lumberton.

Jones doesn’t want that to happen this season.

“We have to be ready because we went into Sacred Heart last year after Taylorsville with our feelings hurt,” Jones said. “We looked up and (Sacred Heart) played their tails off and we’re in a ballgame at halftime. We can’t do that. You can’t take anything for granted and we have to be ready to play.

“We know coach (Lonny) Schraeder, coach (Drew) Dewease and those guys do a good job and they’ll have them ready to play. We have to be ready to go and we can’t overlook anybody.”

While Lumberton has jumped out to a 6-1 record, Sacred Heart remains winless. The Crusaders have had their fair share of issues in 2018.

“We’re just mowing through,” Schraeder said. “It’s tough in a situation like this to keep the spirits up when you’re not going in the right direction, but that’s my job. We have to keep the kids up and playing hard.”

One thing is for sure, Jones knows Sacred Heart will be ready to play when the teams kickoff Friday night.

“They have a good group of kids who play hard, so we know we’re going to get their best effort,” Jones said. “They’re really good along the line of scrimmage on both sides, so it’s not a gimmie by any means for us. We’re going to have to go play to have a chance.”

The Crusaders have lost big to Resurrection and East Marion to open up region play, while Lumberton took down Mount Olive and East Marion before playing a non-region game against Taylorsville.

The No. 1 team in 2A handed the Panthers a 35-9 loss Friday night, forcing Lumberton to turn the ball over fives times. While it was a 24-point loss, the score doesn’t tell the entire story. The Panthers moved the ball on the Tartars, but fumbles and interceptions prevented points.

Defensively, Jones was happy with the performance of his players on that side of the ball.

“We lost and that is what it is, but the score isn’t indicative of how close it was,” Jones said. “I thought our defense played great and they gave us a chance to win. We held them in check as well as anyone has all year. I thought physically we went toe-to-toe with them.”

The Crusaders, on the other hand, are still searching for their first win. It’s been a rough season in Hattiesburg, but Schraeder still has high standards for his team every week.

“The standard doesn’t change,” he said. “You go out and play hard and that’s what we expect. That’s what we’re going to do. We’ll go out and play hard then look up at the end to see what the score is. You don’t change your standards, you keep playing hard and do what you have to do.”