When Greenwood’s football seniors ran this middle-aged scribe into the ground during a summer workout, I was struck by how self-sufficient a group it was.
Head coach Mike Campbell didn’t feel the need to be out there pushing players like he would with most teenage boys; his veteran players were taking care of that themselves.
Ever since this class arrived in high school, Campbell had targeted this as a year that the Woodmen could make a run, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Though the journey ended one week shy of the dream destination with a 27-14 semistate defeat at East Central on Friday night, there weren’t many tears being shed on the Greenwood side after the final whistle. These seniors, rightly so, exited with their heads up.
“I couldn’t ask for any better friends, any better ride,” defensive tackle Nick Young said. “It ended not how we wanted, but you can’t be down about that with this group of guys.”
Down 13-0 late in the third quarter, Greenwood marched 99 yards to get itself within five points with 11:10 to go in the game. The Trojans, though, managed to come up with an answer each time that the Woodmen threatened, and they were able to hold on for their second semistate crown in three years.
Had Greenwood prevailed, it would have been the school’s first state championship appearance in any team sport. Though it didn’t materialize, the seniors still were beaming with pride at night’s end, and so were their coaches.
“Some of the best kids that I’ve ever been around,” Campbell said. “Not just on the football field, but they’re fun to be around in the hallways and the classroom. It’s just such a neat group, and they’ve really rallied our community.”
Prior to the team’s final regular-season home game, Young told his teammates that he “would go to hell and back” for any of them, and he said after Friday’s game that they would do — and have done — the same for him.
The talent in this departing class, from stars like Young, Tim Johns, Justin VanDyke and Noah Compton on defense to offensive stalwarts such as running back Brandon Rosado, tight end Conner Battinau and quarterback Seth Gallman, did some impressive things on the football field over the three years that many of them were in the starting lineup.
But what impressed folks just as much about this class was the maturity they showed and the closeness with which they operated. It was as evident throughout this postseason run as it was during what felt like an endless battery of sprints during preseason conditioning.
They may not have gone out with a championship, but the Woodmen seniors undoubtedly left their mark anyway.
“If winning is not the most important thing, it’s certainly developing these young men,” Campbell said, “and the community certainly gave us great clay to work with.”
I’ll second that.