Lumberton claims back-to-back region titlesBy CAMAL PETRO,
STRINGER – When the rain started to fall in the second half of Friday’s Region 4-1A de facto championship game, Lumberton’s chances of winning its second straight region title went up.
After allowing Stringer to pass effectively in the first half, the Panthers forced three interceptions to help win the contest 30-25 to claim back-to-back titles.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Lumberton coach Zach Jones said. “That was a big win for us against a really good football team. We’ve taken everybody’s best shot all year.”
Lumberton (8-2, 5-0) finishes the regular season next week with a home game with Salem (0-10).
Jones has mentioned his team’s slow starts in games multiple times this season, and the Panthers had another one Friday night. Stringer punted on its first drive, but a bad snap gave the Red Devils two points when Lumberton quarterback Jared Tribett was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
When Stringer got the ball, it took five plays to travel 40 yards to push the score to 8-0 after the missed point-after-attempt.
“I just said, ‘we have to have a short memory,’” Tribett said. “That’s the main thing about football. You have to have a short memory.”
Lumberton answered with an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive to cut the Red Devils’ lead to 8-6 on its ensuing possession. Freshman running back Robert Henry carried the ball seven times on the drive for 31 yards, too, then a Tribett to Donnell Buckner pass for the 14-yard score capped the drive off.
Stringer quickly came back with another scoring drive when it got the ball back, however, pushing the lead to 15-6. A couple of big runs by junior Anthony Thomas set up a wide receiver sweep from Reece Barber for the 7-yard score.
First-half passing game
Jones said after the game that he challenged senior receiver Donnell Buckner to have a good game because when Lumberton traveled to Stringer last season, he was shut down.
“I challenged Donnell because last year, (Stringer’s) Reece Barber shut him down,” Jones said. “I challenged him tonight to have a big ballgame, and he did.”
Buckner caught the first touchdown in the first quarter, then scored from 23 yards in the second quarter to make it a 15-12 ballgame. Tribett also found senior Rickey Thomas for gains of 18, 11 and 40 yards in the first half, with the latter being for a touchdown to give Lumberton its first lead, 18-15.
Tribett passed for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 6-of-9 passing through the first two quarters, and he finished the night with 131 yards after only attempting six passes in the second half.
“I was just trying to stay calm, trying to lead and get the game started early because last week we started slow,” Tribett said. “I was trying to get the game started right and get everybody positive.”
When the rain began to pour in the third quarter, Jones said it did effect his decision to call more passing plays, but he also wanted to control the game more with runs.
“I didn’t want to get into a shootout with them,” Jones said. “I didn’t think that played into our hands.”
Second-half ground game
Robert Henry finished the night with 148 yards on 26 carries, and he carried the load in the second half. He stated the third quarter with five straight runs, moving the ball into Stringer territory, but the Panthers couldn’t get any points.
Two Stringer drives later, senior Haden Boyd connected on a 27-yard field goal to tie the game at 18, but Henry would help his offense move down the field to regain the lead on the next drive.
“He’s a freshman and kept his composure,” Jones said. “He made some really big runs for us.”
He started the Lumberton’s drive late in the third quarter with runs of 12 and 14 yards, then a 10-yard pass play from Tribett to Thomas put the ball at the Stringer 1-yard line. Tribett finished it off with a 1-yard quarterback sneak on the third play of the fourth quarter to make it 24-18.
Midway through the fourth quarter, senior Davion Edwards scored on a 23-yard touchdown gallop to push the Panthers’ lead to 30-18.
After Tribett’s score early in the fourth, Lumberton senior Kee’von Fells intercepted a Cayleb Dyess pass, but Lumberton couldn’t get any points from it. On Stringer’s next offensive play, Dyess through his second interception to sophomore Jayson Buckley, and that set up Edwards’ score.
Stringer answered with a long, three-minute scoring drive to cut the Lumberton lead to 30-25, then Lumberton turned it over on downs deep on the Red Devils’ side of the field to give the home team one last chance.
On the second play, senior Rodriqus Coleman iced the game with the third pick of the fourth quarter.
“Wow,” Jones said. “Big times in the ballgame that helped us. I’m proud of those guys. Last week, Resurrection kind of burned us a little bit, and they came back and had a really good night.”