After one sub-.500 season in his first year back at his alma mater, Duran McLaurin has been the picture of consistency leading the Seventy-First football program.
Over the last three seasons, his Falcons haven’t finished lower than second place in the Mid-South 4-A Conference and have made it to the second round of the state playoffs two of the last three years.
But things are about to get real for the Falcons, as they say, as they join Cumberland County rival Jack Britt in moving to the revamped Sandhills Conference with traditional football powers Scotland and Richmond Senior and dramatically improved Pinecrest.
McLaurin respects the rich tradition of some of the members of the new league, but he is mindful of the fact that Seventy-First has won more football state titles than any other Cumberland County school, three, plus an Eastern 3-A title in the 1970s when no state championship was played for in that classification.
“Seventy-First has some tradition as well,’’ McLaurin said. “Pinecrest, Scotland and Richmond are all going to be big games for us just like everybody else. I hope our kids do what they do and stay focused.’’
McLaurin was glad to have the option this spring of working with 21 players per practice, starting in April. “We’re breaking in new receivers and getting a mesh in with some new things on offense,’’ he said. “I couldn’t wait until May. I wanted to get out here and see what it looks like.’’
McLaurin said he’s missing a few players who are playing spring sports, but the big thing this year is all of his assistant coaches are available for spring practice and not tied up coaching a spring sport. “We’re doing okay with the numbers,’’ he said.
Despite the tough competition expected in the Sandhills Conference, McLaurin said he still expects to finish in the top echelon of the league. “We can’t worry about what everyone else is doing,’’ he said.
Reggie Bryant, a wide receiver who will be a senior this fall, agrees with his coach.
“The guys are a little scared and nervous, but I think we should do good,’’ he said. “I like the competition.’’
Bryant feels confident because of the return of Falcon quarterback Kyler Davis, who threw for 1,716 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
“He led the team well,’’ Bryant said. “If somebody messed up, he picked them up.’’
Bryant is hopeful that attitude will spread. “We’ve got to be confident in ourselves,’’ he said. “If we can be confident, I think we should do it.’’