Thursday, December 5, 2013
A football season is a tumultuous process, a giving of time, health, sleep and focus to represent a school and town.
For the North Augusta High School football team, whose season came to an end via a 49-21 loss to Northwestern, some went above the expectation.
“We had some guys who really battled through some tough injuries and situations this year,” Dan Pippin, North Augusta head football coach, said. “Every team faces those issues, but I feel like this was a special group of guys.”
Pippin uses the “next man up” model, which he likens to the model used by many college basketball teams who have success in the playoffs.
“When you play at North Augusta, you’ve got to be patient,” Pippin said. “We try to play our seniors as much as we can. That’s what you see in college basketball, where the senior-laden teams make a run, because they’re the kids who stuck around for four seasons. That’s how we do it here. People get worried when we lose our seniors, but we’ve got a system where it’s the next man up. The new seniors step in and make us better.”
Of those seniors, Pippin called the sacrifice of Brandon Maddox “one of the most amazing.”
“Brandon Maddox played this entire year, 14 games of AAAA football, with a torn ACL,” Pippin said. “That’s incredible. I told him it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen a high-school player do. He’s not a kid that doesn’t get hit. He plays on the interior of the defensive line, where he faces cut blocks and people going after his legs. Then, Jake (Whitley) got hurt, and he split time at (offensive) tackle for us. That’s incredible, and he did it for the team.”
Late in the season, Dashawn Barnes, a running back for the Jackets, sat out a game with a high ankle sprain, an injury that lingers for months.
“For him to come back, from that high ankle sprain, for him to only miss one game is a testament to him and his parents,” Pippin said. “He wasn’t 100 percent on Friday (against Northwestern) but he gave it all he had. He’s just got great character. To do what he did this year, splitting time with Willie (McCloud) this season after waiting his turn in the program and never complained. Great kid.”
While injuries are a constant in football, giving up personal goals for the good of the team is often a sacrifice not seen by the public eye. For Ronald Williams, Colton Johnson, Maddox and many other Jackets, playing a new position, or filling in for an injured teammate, gave their team a chance to shine.
“Ron (Williams) was a kid we wanted to switch to running back,” Pippin said. “We worked him this spring at running back, but we had an injury and we had to play him at linebacker. After the loss to Lexington, we decided Ronald was going to get what we needed him to. He was going to be on offense when we needed him to be. He didn’t need the rest. So, he did it for the team, which is really good.”
For Maddox and Johnson, two defensive linemen, turning around and playing offense allowed the team to continue lighting up the scoreboard after Whitley’s injury.
“Maddox, on one leg, played both ways for us,” Pippin said. “Then, Colton, we never thought he would play defensive end, then he plays it great this year, starts all the games. Then, Jake gets hurt, and we told him he was going to rotate at left tackle with Maddox. He’s maybe 180 pounds, but he never complained and did everything we asked him to. That’s what you want out of your team.”
For Pippin and the Jackets, next season has already begun.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.