2014-11-12 / Columns

LEDGER COLUMNIST

What we saw Friday night was extraordinary


CODY SOSSAMON Publisher CODY SOSSAMON Publisher I don’t write much about sports, because, well, I think that topic is better left to the pages that bear that name.

This column, however, is an exception.

Those of you who witnessed the Gaffney High football team’s performance Friday night against Northwestern probably understand why I feel compelled to do so.

While I was not there in person, I watched every play on the Ledger’s webcast of the game, just as I have done all season.

Seeing as how Northwestern was atop the region standings and Gaffney, well, putting it mildly, Gaffney has not had the best of seasons, I doubt there were too many folks around here who thought the Indians would even make a ball game out of it.

Me included.

I have seen glimpses of possibilities in previous games, but only that. Glimpses.

Gaffney began the season with five straight losses, close ones in the first two to Union and Dorman, followed by a blowout to Boiling Springs. Against Spartanburg, the game was tied going into the fourth quarter, but the Vikings scored 24 unanswered points to win easily. A 22-point loss to Byrnes was followed by wins versus Nation Ford and Rock Hill. A lopsided losing effort against York came next. The Indians then beat Clover, but dropped the Halloween night game to Fort Mill, leaving GHS with a 3-7 mark heading into the season finale against the Trojans, which came into town on an 8-game winning streak and having clinched the Region III-4A title.

It would have been easy to understand had the Gaffney coaches and players given up on the season after those five losses to begin the season.

After all, this is Gaffney we’re talking about here. That does not happen.

The defense allowed far too many big plays and the offense shot itself in the foot with turnovers and penalties at crucial moments. At times, it looked as if the defense had no clue and the offense no punch. Poor tackling and poor blocking were the norm for these Indians.

But give up, they did not.

What we saw Friday night was extraordinary.

“If we had played like that all year, we’d be undefeated,” was what I heard over and over from fans in the aftermath.

Gaffney did not just win, they dominated. In every phase of the game.

The defense played like wild men, tackled in space, clogged the middle and shut down the passing game.

The offense executed with precision and balance, passing for 251 years and running for 230, with a career-high 196 yards by Jalen Sims. Special teams did their part by allowing no momentum changing plays. Sophomore quarterback Bryson Ward — grandson of former Indian great Billy Ray Rice — was 23 of 28 with no interceptions.

Great performances by both of these young men, but credit this win to team effort. Every player who suited up Friday night had a part in this win, even those who weren’t on the field for a single snap.

These guys never gave up when a lot of the Indian faithful had written this season off as one to forget.

But Friday’s outstanding effort has given this town some hope for the upcoming playoffs. Gaffney travels to the lower part of the state to play Number 1 seed Fort Dorchester, their only losses coming to Goose Creek and Ashley Ridge. The Patriots will provide a tough test for Gaffney, but if the Indians play like they did Friday night, anything can happen.

Regardless of the outcome in Friday’s playoff game, we should all be proud of the perseverance in the face of adversity the players and coaches showed this season. They could have folded their teepees early on, but they kept at it — working and practicing despite the losses piling up. They believed in themselves.

And now, so do the rest of us.

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

Vince Lombardi

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Cody Sossamon (cody@gaffneyledger.com) is publisher of The Gaffney Ledger.

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