RAEFORD — No one can doubt the effort level.
Things just haven’t worked out for the Lumberton High football team this season.
The Pirates nearly erased a 24-point deficit Friday night at Hoke County but couldn’t put together a go-ahead touchdown drive during a 38-21 loss in Ron Cook’s first game as interim coach.
Cook, a career defensive coordinator, was upgraded by Lumberton athletic director Mackie Register on Thursday morning after the Pirates accepted first-year coach Joe Salas’ resignation following seven straight losses to open the season.
“We’re continuing to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Cook said after his team had multiple chances at stops down three points in the fourth quarter. “We just aren’t making the plays we should be making. They hit a couple deep balls that were under thrown and we didn’t make a play.”
Cook’s first game went much like the rest of this tumultuous campaign for Lumberton, at least in the first half.
Lack of execution and too many mistakes including broken coverages, missed tackles and a costly first-possession fumble on a muffed exchange led to an early 24-0 hole.
The Pirates (0-8, 0-2) responded and trailed by a field goal at, 24-21, late in the third on the strength of Robert Andrews’ 26-yard touchdown run and an 11-yard touchdown reception from Jamal Cromartie to seize momentum. Lumberton quarterback Austin Foley completed 17 of his first 19 passes in the second half — including 12 straight in the third quarter — to get into a rhythm behind Lawrence Ches’ uptempo attack.
“We like to throw the ball, but we want to run first because that makes everything a lot easier,” Cook said. “Running with success opened up a lot of open passes in the third quarter and we were able to move the football.”
Foley, who’s only a sophomore and started the season on the junior varsity, finished 30-of-47 for a career-high 308 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were able to read the defense and see what they were doing better after halftime,” Foley said. “We executed better and felt pretty comfortable.”
The early hole proved too much to overcome as Hoke’s ground game took control over the final eight minutes with a pair of touchdowns.
Lumberton dropped it on the turf on their third play from scrimmage after Josh Sheridan never got a clean grasp on the handoff from quarterback Austin Foley. Hoke linebacker Jacob Rushing picked up the bouncing ball at the 32-yard line and raced untouched for the game’s first touchdown.
John Walrath’s PAT gave the Bucks (2-6, 1-1) a 10-0 just four minutes into the opening quarter, before Hoke scored on its next two possessions to build a three-touchdown lead.
Lumberton’s defense forced four turnovers including two interceptions from Troy Mitchill.
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at email@example.com or follow him @MrPalmettoSDS.
Hoke 38, Lumberton 21
Lumberton 0 7 14 0 — 21
Hoke County 10 14 0 14 — 38
HC — John Walrath 25 field goal
HC — Jacob Rushing 32 fumble return (Walrath kick)
HC — Geoffrey Thompson 1 run (Walrath kick)
HC — Brandon Smith 35 pass from Thompson (Walrath kick)
LHS — Will Everette 5 pass from Austin Foley (Dylan Scott kick)
LHS — Robert Andrews 24 run (Scott kick)
LHS — Jamal Cromartie 11 pass from Foley (Scott kick)
HC — Rushing 2 run (Walrath kick)
HC — Thompson 4 run (Walrath kick)
PASSING — LHS: Foley 30-47-0-308. HC: Maynor 9-14-3-93, Peterkin 1-2-0-56, Thompson 1-1-0-35.
RUSHING — LHS: Henderson 7-59. HC: Rushing 13-91.
RECEIVING — LHS: J. Sheridan 3-94, Carpenter 7-89, Everette 3-46.
RECORDS — Hoke County 2-6, 1-1; Lumberton 0-8, 0-2.