ROWLAND — The sun rose on Wednesday and a very tired South Robeson football team was going through conditioning workouts and weight training. Much to the disbelief of many people.
In June, the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County announced the school would close as part of conslidation. But on Tuesday of last week, the board decided to send Rowland Middle students to South Robeson as part of a different consolidation plan.
Had the first plan gone through, South Robeson students would have been spread to high schools at Lumberton, Fairmont and Purnell Swett.
Now, the Three Rivers Conference where the Mustangs play with East Bladen and West Bladen will remain intact. A number of schools had already considered schedule changes if South Robeson had closed.
“It’s been my home for three years and it looked like I was going to lose it my senior year and not get a chance to play with these boys again,” senior quarterback Tyler Locklear said. “When I heard the news, it was very exciting to me.”
The workout Wednesday morning brought 12 athletes out, more than triple the average attendance the team had in the two live workout weeks following the initial announcement on June 18 to consolidate the school.
Locklear had been one of those athletes that chose to skip practice.
“This summer I have been working and this is the first summer that I haven’t been out here,” he said. “Any other summer I’d have been out here all summer, but this year with the school closing I didn’t know where it was heading.”
First-year coach Mike Propst had been through a whirlwind since being approved to head the program in February, and said he had his doubts on the future at South Robeson. Propst made plans in case the worst scenario unfolded, and to his surprise, it didn’t on Tuesday night.
The new plan of the school is one that he sees could pay dividends for the program in the future, helping bridge the gap of incoming freshmen unsure of the transition and timing to play football the fall after their eighth-grade year.
“It does seem like a feasible plan and a doable plan,” Propst said. “The middle school kids will be on campus and they will get to see me and the staff. I think that will be very much a positive.”
But the future of South Robeson is still up in the air past this school year. Propst sees one way that his group can make a difference.
“I told the seniors that they can leave a legacy here and the school can stay open by the way they carry themselves and the way football does,” Propst said. “Football is the front porch of every high school in the state, I don’t care what anybody says. Typically how the football goes, if they go in a positive manner, then things at the school go in a positive way.”
South Robeson opens the season Aug. 23 at Wilmington Hoggard.