last Thursday, Seaforth’s J.V. football team — and, with the school having just 9th and 10th graders, its only football team — earned a come-from-behind win, 33-23, over the Chapel Hill Tigers for the first victory in program history.
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SEAFORTH 33, CHAPEL HILL 23
PITTSBORO — At most schools, junior varsity sports usually aren’t given much attention outside of school.
They’re the teams full of developing players, underclassmen who will go on to be solid juniors and seniors on varsity a year or two down the road.
They’re the teams which don’t compete for postseason spots or packed stat sheets and, oftentimes, stats might not even be recorded for some of their games.
They’re the teams playing in front of little fanfare; those in the stands usually consist of supportive parents or students who are just passing time until the varsity game starts during a doubleheader.
But Seaforth isn’t one of those schools.
And that couldn’t have been more evident last Thursday, when Seaforth’s J.V. football team — and, with the school having just 9th and 10th graders, its only football team — earned a come-from-behind win, 33-23, over the Chapel Hill Tigers for the first victory in program history.
“It’ll honestly probably hit me when I get home because I’m still thinking about stuff we need to work on,” Terrance Gary, Seaforth’s head coach, said with a laugh after the win. “But (I’m giving a game ball) to the whole team. Everybody stepped up, staff and everything.”
The fans, who helped create an environment rarely seen at J.V. games, are part of that equation.
There were parents screaming complaints at officials, organized chants coming from the student section and the occasional student running end-to-end across the bleachers while waving a larger-than-life flag bearing the Hawks’ logo as their peers egged them on.
It might not have been a playoff game, but it sure felt like one.
The play on the field only added to the atmosphere.
Seaforth entered Thursday’s contest with an 0-3 record on the season, losing all three games by at least three scores — including a lopsided loss, 44-7, to West Forsyth on Sept. 9.
At times, the team’s looked unpolished and inexperienced.
That’s because they are.
Before the season began in late August, Gary mentioned that there were only a few players on the roster who had ever played organized football in their lives. For many of them, this season was their first taste of the game.
But watching on Thursday, there’s almost no way you would’ve known it.
“We’ve come a long way,” Gary said. “They’re buying into what we’re preaching. It’s not really X’s and O’s, it’s execution and just performing your best when you need to. That’s all I’m asking for right now.”
Right out of the gate, the Hawks put themselves in a hole.
On a 4th-and-2 try from their own 49-yard-line, Seaforth freshman quarterback Walter Entrekin (5-for-11, 77 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions) was clobbered as he threw with the pocket collapsing, forcing a bad interception that landed right into the arms of Chapel Hill sophomore Dyllan Jones.
The Tigers went on to score a touchdown, paired with a two-point conversion that made it 8-0 in favor of Chapel Hill.
Then, Seaforth brought out its special teams magic.
On the ensuing kickoff, Seaforth sophomore Anthony Vesce scooped up the bouncing ball at the Hawks 15-yard line and dashed toward the right sideline, juking and jiving past a couple of defenders, breaking three tackles and outrunning a relentless Tiger — which gave up the hunt around Chapel Hill’s 15-yard-line, collapsing to the ground — en route to an 85-yard kick return touchdown.
The crowd went bonkers.
“I know Anthony loves football as much as I do,” Gary said. “He’s pretty much like (me) and I’d die out there. He goes hard all of the time.”
That play, which made it 8-7 Tigers, was one of three major special teams moments for the Hawks in the first half.
Following an interception by Seaforth freshman Lucas Rivadeneira with the Tigers leading 15-7 in the second quarter, the Hawks started the drive in Chapel Hill territory and scored in just four plays on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Entrekin to sophomore wide receiver Kooper Jones.
The two-point conversion attempt was no good, making it 15-13 Tigers, but Seaforth had a trick up its sleeve: an onside kick.
And the Hawks executed it perfectly, recovering the ball at Chapel Hill’s 45-yard-line and giving their offense a shot to take the lead.
Just two plays later, Jones (3 catches, 62 yards, 2 TDs) caught another touchdown pass from Entrekin for a 44-yard strike, flexing both his speed and athleticism.
Seaforth took a 19-15 lead, but it wasn’t finished.
The Hawks attempted a pooch kick on the following kickoff, which flew into the air and landed into the arms of a Tiger … and promptly fell out of his hands. Seaforth freshman Caden Brewer recovered it, giving his offense yet another short field to work with.
Seaforth freshman running back Noah Lewis (3 carries, 67 yards, 2 TDs) took the handoff on the first play of the next drive, darted toward the left sideline and weaved through holes as he sped past everyone and made it into the end zone untouched.
In a matter of mere minutes, Seaforth went from a two-point deficit to a 10-point lead. And never looked back.
“We want to be the aggressor, so I don’t want to be sitting back and waiting for people to make plays,” Gary said. “We’re going 100 miles-per-hour, 100% of the time. We need to make them adjust to us. Just take a chance. We don’t have anything to lose, it’s the first season.”
With the time ticking down at the end of the game and the Hawks leading, 33-23, the players on the Seaforth sideline prepared to celebrate.
Once the clock hit triple zeroes and the score went final, a group of Hawks chased Gary down with a bucket of Gatorade, intending to soak him as a way to congratulate him on his first win as a head coach.
He outran them, but it was the thought that counted.
“At first, I didn’t want to get wet, but I’m like, ‘Hold up, maybe I should stop and enjoy this,’ but I’m faster than all of those kids,” Gary said, chuckling. “But that’s also for them. I want them to celebrate … but they need to be a little sneakier next time.”
After the post-game speech at midfield by Gary, the players got together and jumped, screamed and rollicked with one another, relishing in the win. Even the entire student section, donning Hawaiian-themed shirts and leis, stormed the field to join in the fun.
It was obvious that this meant more than your typical J.V. football win.
“Seeing the students come down onto the field and celebrate with us, that’s what I want, I want it to be a community,” Gary said. “I want it to always be ‘We won, we lost.’ They need to be a community together, so I love the kids coming out to celebrate with us.”
Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.