CLIMAX — Whenever a high school football coach returns to a school he spent a great deal of time at with his new team, there is plenty of emotion. And there was on Friday night as Calvin Brown and his Asheboro High School Blue Comets traveled to Providence Grove High School for a non-league game in Week 4 of the prep season.
Leading up to the contest, both Brown and PGHS first-year coach David Hayes admitted there were emotional issues that had to be handled, but both insisted the focus was on the players and finding a way to come out of Friday night with an all-important win.
Hayes and the Patriots were able to accomplish that as PG, which gave up two touchdowns in the game’s first 5 minutes, rallied for a 24-14 victory over AHS and Brown, who was returning to PG after 11 years in various roles, including seven as the head varsity football coach.
When the final horn sounded, all those emotions came pouring out — on both sides.
“It is definitely one of the biggest wins I have ever been a part of,” said PG senior running back Logan Fox, who rushed for 235 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. “There were a lot of emotions coming into the game. We came in here with emotions through the roof and getting the ‘dub’ brings it all out. It was an emotion-filled win.”
Brady Collins, who had a strong game from his linebacker spot, echoed those feelings.
“We knew it was a big game coming in,” Collins said. “The whole coaching staff from last year is over there. This is my third year of varsity and I played two years for them. It was an emotionally big game and we stayed focused and got it done. It was tough, but we knew we had to stay focused because they are a good team.”
They certainly were early as AHS sandwiched an 85-yard scoring pass from Logan Laughlin and Elijah Woodle on the first play from scrimmage with a 45-yard TD strike between the same teammates around a scoring drive from PG, which ended with a 6-yard scoring run from quarterback James Ellis. Before 5 minutes had run off the clock, AHS held a 14-7 lead.
But the PG defense held after and all the prep work the Patriots poured into the emotional week shined through.
“I made it pretty clear that I knew it was going to be an emotional game but I didn’t want to hear any of it,” Hayes said. “It was like the saying: ‘We had to play with emotion, but not be emotional.’ Coming in we were 3-0 and playing with house money.
“Obviously, this is the game everyone here wanted to win. Coach (Rick) Larrick said be a duck. On the water, just float. My legs can kick as much as they need to underneath, just don’t let anyone see that and I tried to do that.”
PG tied the game in the third quarter on a 21-yard run from Fox and took their first lead when sophomore Carson Jones nailed a 44-yard field goal with 10:26 to play. PG added one final score on a 1-yard run by Fox with 3:11 left and the defense did the rest, shutting out AHS for the game’s final 43 minutes.
“They played tough and we made a lot of mental mistakes,” said Brown, who was disappointed but calm at the start of the post-game interview. “The credit goes to them. They made a lot of plays tonight. We made too many mistakes.
“We had a chance to be up by a couple of scores at halftime, but we dropped a pass in the end zone and they are a very good football team when you don’t do things like that. No excuses. We have to make plays and we didn’t when we had the opportunity.”
When asked about the PG players, Brown attempted to but couldn’t fight back tears.
“I’m proud of them. I went through the line and hugged every one of them,” Brown said. “I’m getting emotional just thinking about them. I am super proud of them. I hugged Logan Fox a couple of times. I am proud of the success they are having.
“For 48 minutes, I was on the other side, but every other game, I am pulling for these guys.”
Void of a rushing game because of injuries and a stout Patriot defense, AHS’ air attack was severely limited after the early spurt. Laughlin had 130 yards through the air after two throws and finished with 277 yards.
“We checked our coverage and it wasn’t communicated across the board and mistakes happen,” Hayes said of the early AHS scores. “When you make mistakes against really athletic kids, it turns into touchdowns, not first downs. After that, everyone was on the same page.”
The win was the third straight for the Patriots in the series and narrowed the all-time record to 6-5 in favor of the Blue Comets.
This certainly was an emotional week for the coaches, players and communities, one that won’t be rivaled for quite some time.
At least until next year’s game.