By Mike Flynn
For most of the 1990s and part of this decade, the Tattnall Square Academy Trojans dominated GISA AAA football action. That all changed around 7:45 p.m. last Friday.
Those of us that follow the Deerfield-Windsor Knights have known this was coming, but it became official during the first quarter of the state finals. The Trojans, a team that had gained a mere 450 passing yards all year, came out throwing the football in the worst conditions of the season. Then they attempted a fake punt deep in their own territory. The passes fell to the mud, the fake punt failed miserably, and the mighty Trojans were playing desperate, afraid they needed an edge against our boys. Turns out, they were right.
Tattnall should have been able to line their horses up and move three yards at a time through the slop, but a swarming, undersized Knight defense refused to allow it. Senior tackle Jordan Funderburk was giving away half a foot and 40 pounds to the man across the line, but never got pushed off the ball as the Trojans had been boasting they would do all week on The Vent.
The seniors — Rhett Cooper, Banks Kinslow, Davis Moore, Michael Laslie, Casey Rhodes, Matt Moree, Walker Lanier, Mac Lanier, Michael Kelley, Caleb Smith, Jordan Funderburk and Cooper Shoemaker — were all playing possessed in their final high school football game … EVER! No more Friday nights at the Webb. No more sled Mondays. No more on field heroics. But as proved by the sidelines swelled with players from seasons past … once a Knight … always a Knight.
We will see those young men again, only now they join the ranks of the Knight Nation, which is growing larger on an emerging tradition.
When the third quarter ended, DWS held a comfortable lead, but just as they did in every game this season, the team huddled on the sidelines. The entire muddy mass of seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen who rarely saw the field came together. Across the field, the Trojans defense huddled, with the balance of their team strung out on the sidelines. The entirely different scenes led us to the unmistakable conclusion that coach Allen Lowe has all the parts of his team working in unison, and has built the premier football program in GISA. His feeder program is stuffed with kids eager to become part of the magic and be part of that huddle on Friday.
On Thanksgiving night, DWS held their final practice of the 2010 season. It was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Many parents arrived to watch. The music was blaring at 6:30 and the entire team was already on the field. Some seniors were playing touch football with freshmen. Rhett Cooper decided he wanted to challenge Trey “Boomer” Puckett to a field goal kicking contest and was truly in disbelief when he didn’t win. It looked like a bunch of overgrown first graders at recess.
Lowe was watching from the end zone when a parent said, “Looks like they are loose, coach.”
With a chuckle the coach replied, “That is not a problem with this bunch.”
No, I guess it isn’t. For 13 games they played with a confidence that there was nothing they could not overcome. Big linemen and fast receivers beware, because our guys either don’t know when they are over matched, or really don’t care – maybe both.
While those 12 seniors are moving on in perfection, there are 47 underclassmen thirsty for an opportunity to continue the legacy. Today’s eighth graders are just a few months from their inaugural buzz cut at the hands of the next senior class. They will spend a season dragging tackling dummies and running the cobb squad, the same things those 12 seniors did just three years ago. The beat goes on, but all the family members had better work pretty hard, because the bar was just set higher with a 13-0 season.
In all prudence the city of Albany really should invest in one of those nice street signs over at Exit 7, the Nottingham ramps, which reads, “Deerfield-Windsor School this exit. Home of the 2002, 2008, and the 13-0 2010 GISA AAA State Football Champions. Opposing teams should proceed at your own peril, because this family plays for keeps.”