Robeson County Bears emerge as the newest semi-pro football team in the area

Jonathan Bym Sports editor

LUMBERTON — With all the negativity that Isaiah Baker hears and sees about Robeson County, the 30-year-old county native is looking for a positive outlet for his home.

Baker has recently spent time as a player and a coach on local semi-professional football teams, and now has taken over in starting an upstart program, the Robeson County Bears.

“Lumberton and Robeson County in general gets a negative rap and I said let’s get something positive going on in the area,” Baker said. “There are a lot of guys around here that want to play and have a chance to go back to college and play and even get out of Robeson County.”

The Robeson County Bears are a part of the Central Carolina Football League.

Baker said that currently the team has a 43-man roster, with the league maximum at 60, that includes a 53-player roster and an additional seven practice squad players. He said that a majority of the team are players that are two or three years out of high school, but does bring some older players and some have from outside of the county to join the program.

“For many of these guys, it’s their last chance to go out there and play football,” Baker said.

The Bears will bring the first live sports action to Robeson County since the COVID-19 pandemic as they host the Fayetteville Ducks in a 7-on-7 scrimmage at Godwin Heights Community Park Sunday at 2 p.m.

“This event is free and open to the public,” Baker said. “We want Robeson County to back us up. He don’t have any sponsors, but we would love for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, Lumberton Police Department, Lumberton Fire Department and others to back us and show support.”

The reason for local support for the team is that Baker believes this team will help out the community in turn.

“We want to do good for the community, and football is a way to do that,” he said. “We can get guys off the street by keeping them focused on football and the guys can grow as men through football.”

Attempts have been made for semi-pro teams in Robeson County in the past, most recently with the Lumberton Seminoles in the Coastal Football Alliance last year. Baker was a part of that team and said that the Bears have made a point to have a better relationship between the coaches and the players.

“The biggest thing is players have to trust you,” Baker said. “In the past, players wouldn’t show up to practice or show up for the games and what it boiled down to was the team had to be disbanded,” Baker said. “We don’t plan on disbanding this team. We know it’s a slow process, but we have done what we could. We have even put the player’s names on the backs of their jerseys and let them take them home.”

Baker said the team normally practices on Sunday afternoons at Godwin Heights Community Park, and is looking in the area for a home field to play games on in the fall.

Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.