Playing through to the end

Published 9:31 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It’s exciting when a team or athlete ends a season holding a trophy.

It’s not as exciting, but it can be equally impressive, when a team ends its season with its best game, or match of the season.

Friday night’s football game at Nansemond River’s Arrowhead Stadium was bizarre from start to finish.

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For starters, then constantly through all 48 minutes of the game, a 30-mile-per-hour wind blew steadily from the scoreboard end of the field directly down the length of the field.

Kickoffs with the wind went into the end zone or through it by 10 or 20 yards.

Kicks into the wind had to be squibbed along the ground, and punts into the wind included, from both teams, yardages such as five, seven and eight yards.

Nansemond River’s running game, which is what the Warriors do on offense for all but a few snaps each game, anyway, was just fine in the wind.

With NR defensive lineman Tyron Smith’s interception for a touchdown, followed by a Warriors goal-line stand, both in the final few minutes, gave Nansemond River an upset win, at least as measured by win-loss records. The final result meant the end of the game was as strange as the playing conditions.

The Warriors celebrated, in proper rivalry fashion, as though it was a district title or more. Tracey Parker Sr.’s postgame talk to his team huddled in the end zone lasted a short fraction of what it usually does, win or lose.

At the time, no one knew if Nansemond River’s season was continuing or not, since that answer depended on a game being played at the same time in Virginia Beach. Green Run won and hung on to the last playoff spot. The Warriors improved from one win last year to five this season, but not quite enough to give them a postseason berth.

Lakeland, moving from winless last fall to 7-3 now, is in the playoffs. Coach Glenwood Ferebee spoke much longer to his Cavaliers in the opposite end zone Friday night.

The Cavaliers will play their first Group AAA playoff game in the school’s history, which spans 16 football seasons, on Saturday night at Norcom.

Lakeland is alive and in the hunt for the regional and state trophies, something virtually no one other than the Cavalier coaches and players thought was a realistic goal as of August. In that sense, the Warriors would trade places with the Cavaliers.

But the Warriors finished the season in a way few teams get to finish, with their high-water mark.

“For the senior class, this shows if you fight to the end, prepare as best as you can, and play all four quarters, it proves anything can happen,” Parker said.

It wasn’t the ultimate goal for the Warriors, but their season concluded in a way that would make any coach proud of his players.