The bond between a player and coach is special, like the relationship Swansboro football coaches Jeremy Boone and U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Tyler Hunsinger, School of Infantry East, have with this year’s senior class.

Hunsinger, in his first year at Swansboro, coached a handful of the seniors when they were kids in Swansboro’s Pop Warner league years ago. That was his first experience coaching football.

Boone, a medically retired Marine Corps sergeant, began coaching football at the middle school level five years ago when this year’s senior class were 8th graders. A year later, he joined them at Swansboro High. Now he serves the role of head junior varsity coach and varsity defensive line coach.

Since first encountering the now senior class in years prior, Hunsinger and Boone have embraced the fact that being a football coach at Swansboro High School has little to do with the game of football and has everything to do with the process of developing responsible, mature young adults.

“One day football is going to be over with, so [our job is] to teach them to be better men, fathers, husbands, be better in the community [and in] whatever job they do later on in life,” Boone said. “Hopefully what we’ve taught them will translate into that.”

Hunsinger, an infantry operations chief, also understands well that being a football coach is about preparing student-athletes for the rest of their lives. There’s more to it than getting players ready for Friday nights.

“Being honest, 99% of these guys will never play football beyond high school,” Hunsinger said, who serves as the defensive coordinator for the JV team and helps coach the varsity’s defensive backs. “It’s about what things they learn here that they are going to take with them into the rest of their lives.”

For Hunsinger and Boone, being a coach is about more than winning on the field. It is about fulfilling their own dreams of becoming catalysts for the betterment of their community and the younger generations entering adulthood.

“I don’t consider myself just a football coach,” Boone said, who was a Marine Corps field radio operator. “Some of these kids look at us almost like father figures, and that’s kind of what we need to be to them.”

Despite competing in what Coach Boone called one of the toughest conferences in North Carolina, Swansboro has high hopes for the 2019 season. The Coastal 3A Conference includes title contenders Havelock and Jacksonville, who went a combined 24-3 last season. Jacksonville made it to the state championship game before losing a 17-14 slobberknocker to perennial powerhouse Charlotte Catholic. Havelock made it to the semi-finals, losing to Jacksonville in 41-34 shootout.

“I think there are going to be heads being turned this season,” Hunsinger said of the Pirates’ prospects of surprising some doubters this fall.

Over 25 student-athletes on the Swansboro Pirates’ 2019 football team are entering their final year of high school football.

Given that experience, Coach Boone is expecting big things not just out of the large senior class, but the team as a whole. In particular, the Pirates have their sights set on making an appearance in the state playoffs come mid-November.

Both coaches know it will be a bittersweet season given how much they have seen some of the seniors grow since first coaching those players years ago.

Senior night versus Jacksonville on Oct. 25 will be emotional, Boone said, knowing that the playing careers of one of the best groups of seniors he has ever seen will be coming to an end. When that time comes, Coach Boone and Coach Hunsinger both want their players to know that they will always be there for them as mentors and as friends.

“When they’re done with their career in high school, if they want to come back here and ask for advice, I am here,” Boone said, who played his high school ball in the Outer Banks at Manteo. “I’m always here for these kids and I always will be. I love every single one of them.”

The Pirates will take on Spring Creek and CB Aycock on Aug. 16 beginning at 8 p.m. at the Marine Federal Credit Union Football Jamboree at Northside High School in Jacksonville before their regular season opener at home versus Dixon on Aug. 23.

The Swansboro varsity football team is led by Head Coach Tim Laspada.

Swansboro Football Schedule

8/23 vs. Dixon

8/30 vs. Croatan

9/6 @ Richlands

9/13 vs. East Carteret

9/20 vs. North Brunswick

9/27 @ Union

10/11 @ White Oak

10/18 @ Northside

10/25 vs. Jacksonville (Homecoming)

11/1 vs. Havelock (Senior Night)

11/8 @ West Carteret