A sneak-peek at my Sunday column, which won’t be posted until midnight. See how special you bloggees are?
KHS football team is bringing our community together
It’s not hard to figure out that I’m an unapologetic sports fan. I spent the better part of 16 years covering all levels of sports – including the NFL, NBA, NASCAR and NCAA – but my favorite area has always been high school athletics.
Friday night’s third-round NCHSAA 2AA football playoff showdown between Kinston and Pittsboro Northwood made my passion for prep sports burn even greater.
Not only did the Kinston football team win in a 34-21 decision against Northwood, those young men did it with class and dignity. On a muddy, sloppy field on a bitterly cold night, I watched player after player from Kinston help Northwood players up after nearly every play.
At the end of the game, when some teams might’ve been jumping around for joy and actin’ a fool, the Kinston players lined up, shook hands with Northwood players and were extremely gracious in victory. As I walked off the field after interviewing KHS coach Battle Holley and a few of his players, I was stopped by a Northwood fan who – mistaking me for a Kinston coach – wished the Vikings good luck.
He also said, “That was the classiest team we’ve played this year.” This from a fan who just saw his own beloved team get knocked out of the playoffs.
The most beautiful thing about Friday’s game, though, wasn’t the final score – it was the support of the 500 or so Kinston fans who braved the cold weather, the Black Friday traffic and the 225-mile roundtrip to support their team.
In particular, there was a group of about 20 men who sang hymn-like songs all night, with lyrics that included: “I’m so proud I’m from Kinston,” “I’m proud of our boys” and “Thank you Lord, I’m from Kinston.”
And yes, the young men on the field noticed.
“A couple of years ago, we really didn’t have any fans behind us, but now they’re there with us,” senior running back Josh Benoit said. “We really appreciate them.”
Senior quarterback Dory Hines concurred: “It means a lot to me to hear the crowd behind us. They really made a difference tonight.”
The success of the football team not only affects the team and its fans – Kinston High School Principal Wynn Whittington said it has a positive effect on the whole community.
“This football season has brought not just the city, but the county together,” Whittington said. “Every Friday night is an opportunity to forget about nonpartisan elections, shootings, arrests, robberies and all these things that are going on in the news.
“It gives everybody an opportunity to focus on thepurest form of entertainment, in my opinion: high school athletics. … It warms my heart to listen to former Kinston students who are now grown men singing hymns. That was awesome.”
The road isn’t over for this 2009 Kinston team, though. As if the task hasn’t already been daunting enough to this point in the season – traveling nearly 650 miles to win three road games against teams with a combined 31-5 record – the Vikings face a 332-mile roundtrip on Friday to take on a team with the third-longest winning streak in America. Reidsville, which has won the past two 2AA state titles, enter Friday’s game with 46 straight wins.
These are the young men from your hometown. Go ahead and plan on taking a half-day on Friday and make that trip to Reidsville. Don’t want to drive? Contact Whittington at KHS and he’ll put you on a charter bus for a nominal fee.
Even if you’re not able to make it up there for Friday’s game, take a minute to congratulate the team. Sponsor a mother or a father who otherwise couldn’t go to Friday’s game by donating $30 to Kinston High School so they’ll be able to cheer on their sons.
Kinston and Lenoir County – this is our time to shine. Let’s continue to show our children how much we love them and support them.
Bryan C. Hanks’ column appears every Sunday in The Free Press. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at email@example.com. Check out his blog at bhanks.encblogs.com.