Just about everyone in life sets goals. Some goals are small and simple while others are more complex. But regardless of the size or shape of the goal, they all require one thing to achieve success, and that is a consistent amount of effort put into accomplishing a series of small tasks that lead up to the completion of the objective.
Every year, football programs across the state have the dream of competing for a state championship. Every player, every coach, along with student bodies and fans everywhere have visions of hoisting up the championship trophy at the end of a thrilling mid-December game.
But what does it take to get there? Of course, it takes a lot of talent, and over the course of my 40-plus years around the game, I’ve seen that it also requires a fair amount of luck to advance through five rounds of the playoffs without any significant injuries or untimely turnovers.
However, talent and luck alone aren’t what gets teams through the 16-week gauntlet that leads to a state championship game. It takes a solid vision from the head coach, it takes a total commitment from the school administration, and most importantly, it takes a team that completely buys into this year-long plan to achieve the ultimate prize of winning a state championship.
It’s the extra reps in the weight room when your body is already tired, it’s running additional sprints in the cold winter and spring months, and it’s making sure that your timing is perfect in the 7-on-7’s in the sweltering heat of June and July that helps contribute to success in football.
Typically, it’s the grueling hours that a team spends when nobody is looking that pays the biggest dividends on Friday’s when thousands of spectators are watching.
This weekend in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, eight teams will compete for four state championship trophies. These are eight programs that have weathered the storm, who won the games that mattered the most, and who are ready to write themselves into their schools’ record books.
Win or lose, these groups of young players and their coaches will forever share a lifelong bond together. The experiences they’ve shared this year has made them a tight-knit family, and they’ll carry the memories from their championship run with them for a lifetime.
Looking ahead at this weekend’s games, it marks the first time since 2001 that we won’t have subdivided champions being crowned as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association moved to a subdivided A and AA system in 2002.
The result of this move means that we’ll return to four championship games that will take place on Friday night and all day on Saturday.
On Friday night at 7 p.m. at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, Greenville Rose will face off against Greensboro Dudley for the 3A title.
This will be a classic battle of longtime state powers, and well worth the price of admission. If you look back at my preseason rankings, J.H. Rose debuted as the top-ranked team with Dudley right behind them in third place, so these are two battle-tested programs that know how to win.
These two blue-blood programs have hung multiple championship banners in their history so plan on being in Chapel Hill for this clash of titans.
At high noon on Saturday, Tarboro and Mitchell County will battle against one another on the Kenan Stadium turf for the 1A championship trophy.
If you love the old smashmouth style of play from yesteryear, and you like good old hard-hitting football, this will be your kind of game.
Jeff Craddock brings his Tarboro Vikings into the championship contest for a fifth consecutive year, but they’ll have to figure out how to contain Mitchell do-it-all quarterback Ty Turbyfill to hoist the trophy.
Speed and legacy
Following that game, take the short ride over to Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh for a 3 p.m. kickoff between Shelby and Wallace-Rose Hill in the 2A finals.
This is yet another game between two historical powerhouses in North Carolina.
Very few programs can match the championship success that Shelby has accomplished, but Wallace-Rose Hill has the speed and talent to compete in this epic battle.
Wallace-Rose Hill head football coach Kevin Motsinger has a stable of fast and capable runners led by Kanye Roberts, who leads the state in rushing touchdowns.
The battle of the Bulldogs offense versus the Golden Lions defense will be fun to see and worth the price of admission alone, but don’t forget about Shelby’s dynamic junior quarterback Daylin Lee, because he’s pretty good too.
A grand rematch
And in the nightcap on Saturday, Julius Chambers will travel up from Charlotte to take on Cardinal Gibbons, who may just walk right across the street from their neighboring campus to do battle in the 4A championship game at 7 p.m.
In a rematch from the opening week of the season, these two schools know one another well and both have an opportunity to make history for their schools and communities.
Well there you have it, a look at this weekend’s championship games that will take place in Raleigh and Chapel Hill. It doesn’t matter if you have a team or not in these games, fans from all across the state should pack these stadiums and celebrate the teams and all of their accomplishments.
We should consider ourselves lucky to have such a strong brand of football being played here in North Carolina, and while I know that states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and California get much of the national hype and attention, we have a very strong brand of football ourselves and trust me, the college coaches around the country know it too, so let’s celebrate these young athletes.