After saying goodbye to longtime Leopards head coach James Lewis following his recent retirement, Lakewood has moved forward and hired their next head coach. The new face at the helm is one that’s familiar around Sampson County and to Lakewood — Barrett Sloan.
Many may know him as being the son of Midway coaching legend, Tommy Sloan, but Barrett Sloan didn’t earn his position by riding the coattails of his father. With plenty of experience in his own right, he was once part of the Leopards coaching staff and was the 3A Triton High School’s quarterback coach before returning to Lakewood. Now as head coach he has big shoes to fill following behind Lewis’s legacy, a unique opportunity as he himself pointed out.
“This is definitely a unique experience, especially with how successful Lakewood has been in recent years,” said Sloan. “We’ve got a great staff and great players, though we lost a lot of seniors from last year’s team we have some equally talented seniors this year. Though coach Lewis is gone now, he didn’t leave me with nothing. I’d say he left in a good place, especially with our returners and incoming freshmen.”
The senior led Leopards last season were surely a force that was nearly unmatched specially on the defensive side of the ball. Dishing out a total of eight shutouts, never losing a home game, finishing the year 11-3 and making an appearance in the third round of the 1A State Playoffs. While these were accomplished by the traditional style of Lewis, Sloan is aware of the old saying about a well oiled machine. Though he has some new ideas about the offense their defense will be grounded on those familiar philosophies that were left behind.
“We all know how the saying goes, If ain’t broke don’t fix it,” said Sloan. “When it comes to our defense were known for playing hard and fast and that’s not going to change. Our basics aren’t going to change on either side of the ball — it’s all about blocking and tackling for us.”
“While it’s true I’ve got some new ideas for the offense our basic concept of again playing faster and harder than anyone else isn’t going to change,” he added.
Sloan will be relying on not just his up and coming seniors to help lead his team and to help implement his new ideas for the future of Leopard football. With any head coach his staff is just as important something he highlighted already but later commented on more.
“When it comes to my coaching staff the two most important ones to me are the O-line coach and the D-backs coach. Our D-backs coach, Jake Davidson, was thinking about hanging his coaching days up as well with coach Lewis and Telfair Simpson. Luckily I was about to convince him to stay on and I was really excited about that,” said Sloan.
“Also coach Jonathan Hall, who I built a relationship with during my time here before, is back and will be taking over as our new defensive coordinator,” he continued. “Not to mention my dad will be helping out with coach Darius Powell who’s coming back and coaching the O-line. Coach Larry Bass is returning as well and Austin Tanner will be also helping us out. I believe that’s everyone, if I left anyone out I apologize because I couldn’t do this without their help.”
The final topic touched on is one that any local sports enthusiast will be curious about. That being if he feels any pressure trying to follow the legacy’s of his father, one of the all-time great coaches of Sampson County. His response easily answered that question.
“You know that’s a question I get asked a lot, but at the end of the day it’s all about going out there and doing what I can for those kids that play for me. It’s also about getting them to follow you, respect you, having them willingly play for you every single day and making them better men on and off the field. That’s what’s important,” said Sloan.
“It’s not about comparing my team to the 90s Raiders and trying to see which will be better. If I can do right by my players and achieve those other things mentioned that’s all that matters, you can compare me to whoever you want to after that. Although, it never hurts to have someone that sees eye to eye on your ideas like my dad and it isn’t bad to have him in your corner either,” remarked Sloan.
With fresh takes on the offense mixed with the traditional smash mouth football they’re known for, The Leopards are poised and ready to take on the 2018 season. Their first big test coming a week before the annual Jamboree when they travel to face long time rival the Clinton Dark Horses.
Reach Michael Hardison at [email protected] Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.