This shouldn't be happening. It's OK to say that about Ridge Spring-Monetta's team right now.
It's never happened. The Trojans (10-2) have never been a game away from playing for a state title in South Carolina.
"The only thing I've heard was back in 1938," Ridge Spring-Monetta coach Mark Rodgers said. "It was when there was just Monetta High School. That's the only team people have told me that might have been this close."
It shouldn't have happened this year. Last year's team was the one with all the stars.
"We had all the offensive weapons and playmakers last year," senior quarterback Devonne Quattlebaum said. "But one thing that's different is focus. This team has better chemistry and more drive. We got rid of all the comedians from last year's team, too."
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has scholarship offers from Colorado and Kentucky. He's a pure athlete who looks like he'll be a fine strong safety for one of those teams. Both schools will attend tonight's Class A Division II Upper State Championship against Jonesville.
They'll see a supporting cast that's been quite successful of putting mind over matter. Take the case of junior offensive lineman Terrell Outzen.
"That boy played three weeks with a broken leg," Rodgers said. "He broke his leg in a Saturday jamboree against Calhoun County. He played a half against Saluda. He went to the doctor, and his family doctor told him he had a pulled muscle. He gave him painkillers, and he came out here to practice and never missed a day."
Outzen hobbled along.
"He was our starting nose guard and our starting right guard on offense," Rodgers said. "He kept on playing. He'd play the first half the first three games while he kept hobbling. I finally told his daddy to take him to see the doctor at the black-and-blue clinic to get a second opinion in Aiken. The doctor said it was broke but it was already healing. This was already in week four."
Outzen was told to sit out two weeks. He'd already played four weeks. It made an impression on his 24-man team. The Trojans began the year with 35 players.
"I didn't cut them; those boys fired themselves," Rodgers said. "I teach these kids these practices are like a job. Practice is at 8. They've got to be here at 8. If they can't show up for practices on time then they will have trouble showing up for work on time. If they can't meet the rules, they've got to go. That's why we are a small school with an even smaller team."
Rodgers said his 221-student school is the third-smallest in the state. His school has 73 boys. Twenty-four play football.
"We have a tight group," he said. "We have 14 juniors and seniors. The rest of our team is all sophomores and freshmen."
The team wins off its lines.
"We don't have a home run back," Rodgers said. "We can't get in a scoring contest. We just come at you. If you weigh 300 pounds we're still coming."
The Trojans' offense loves to line up in the Power-I with an extra back offset to one side in their backfield.
"We call it the 'L,' and the kids would rather be in it than anything else," Rodgers said. "They believe they can gnaw on a team and wear them out. My center weighs 150 pounds. Guard weighs 147. Tight end at 160. Other tight end weighs 210. Fullback might be 180. Halfback weighs 120. Other halfback is 155. Tailback might be 160. We're not huge, but we've got some gutters."
Outzen's example has spread. Senior linebacker Richard Maddox has an injured thumb. It's heavily wrapped.
That's how it's going to stay.
"I'm not going to the doctor because I can practice and can deal with it," he said. "My thumb got dislocated when it got pulled back in the game Friday. You've got to be tough here. I commend Terrell for what he did. I don't see how anybody can play on a broke leg. He'd just fall down, then get up and keep going. He never said a thing. That's this team. That attitude basically describes this team. I'm not going to the doctor. I'm not risking missing this game."
It only comes around the Ridge once every 68 years.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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