After years in the wilderness, Gretna football in midst of r

After years in the wilderness, Gretna football in midst of r

Postautor: Angel92 » 8 paź 2017, o 05:10

GRETNA — To appreciate the excitement floating around Hawks Country, one has to understand just how dismal the last few seasons were.
A one-win year might be explained by a changing of the guard, new players and different coaching philosophies.
A 5-6 season might get fans interested again, but all that amounted to was a first-round playoff loss.
Follow that with a 3-7 finish and well, people start to write you off as a has-been, as a program that has tanked and fallen from the high regards in which it was once held.
But after three years in a wilderness, Gretna is back.
The Hawks are off to a sterling 6-0 start. They haven’t accomplished that feat since 2008, when they won their second straight state title and fourth in a six-year span.
Suddenly, nobody doubts Gretna anymore. They fear the football revival.
Senior nose guard Luke Davis has noticed several differences in his third varsity season.
“A whole lot more respect,” he said after Monday’s practice.
They’ve won close games this year — three by single digits — and celebrated blowout-wins, too. Last week, the Hawks handed Altavista a 39-0 loss and that was one week after a 60-14 bludgeoning of Chatham.
“Any time you’re winning, you’re going to have more of a following, you’re going to get more attention from the fans, from the news, from everyone,” Gretna head coach Cole Simpson said.
Simpson is in his fourth year as GHS coach. He became an assistant in 2010, a year the Hawks went 12-2. The next year, they won a state title, finishing 13-2 and claiming their fifth ring in under a decade, a staggering feat for any high school program.
‘Back to like it used to be’
One game has always stood out above the others: The battle against William Campbell. Fans once packed into either stadium to see two of Virginia’s best go at it.
Old times are here again. Gretna and William Campbell (5-0) play Friday night in a game that hasn’t generated this much buzz since the mid-2000s. That both teams are undefeated only adds to the long-standing mystique of a rivalry that once featured players like Cedric Peerman, Vic Hall, Charles Haley and Nick Miller.
And Gretna, which has lost three straight in the series, is ready for the challenge.
“If we play our best, there’s nobody that can beat us,” Hawks wide receiver Dajon Hicks said.
Hicks is tearing up the turf. He has 21 catches for a team-high 531 receiving yards and has had an almost preternatural connection with quarterback Tabron Mabins (699 passing yards).
“It’s different from last year,” Hicks said of his second varsity season. “I think it’s because we’re way more focused. Last year, we were playing around in practice but this year we’re way more serious. We’re taking the games serious. We’re not getting in trouble in school.”
Like some other players, Hicks doesn’t know much about the history of the rivalry.
But Davis, the nose guard, does. He remembers the days of Nick Miller and Theo Miller, who were integral parts of Gretna’s 2008 and 2011 state titles.
“I got to watch them play when I was little,” said Davis, who has been playing football since he was 4 years old. “Now I’m here playing where they played.”
Friday, Simpson will go against former William Campbell standout and current coach Danny Broggin for the second straight year.
“It goes back a long way,” Simpson said, “and we’re excited that it’s back to like it used to be.”
Simpson has waited for this group to rise through the ranks. That includes running back Jaylan Myers (a team-high 692 rushing yards).
“The most exciting thing,” the coach said, “is that we’ve gotten a little bit better every week. That’s the key. When I was here on the teams that went to the championship games, they’d improve a little bit every week, all the way through the regular season even all the way through the playoffs. So far, that’s what’s happened with this team.”
A big deal every year
There have been plenty of memorable Gretna-Campbell games over the years. Former Generals coach Brad Bradley, now at Heritage, recalled games from 2004 and 2005, when the stands were packed by the time both teams began their warm-ups.
“You’re gonna get their best game no matter what,” Bradley said about Gretna. “We always knew that and we respected that. It was a great rivalry but it was a friendly rivalry.”
And it’s one Gretna once owned, taking nine of 11 of the meetings from 2003 through ’13.
“No matter the records of the teams, Gretna and William Campbell is a big deal every year,” Simpson said. “It has been for a long time and hopefully it always will be.”
The coach recalled 2012, when the Hawks fell behind early before claiming a 34-18 victory.
That rivalry is Gretna football in a microcosm. There are expectations here for this program, which once reeled off 38 straight wins.
Current players don’t remember those days, either. Football, though, is still bred into them.
“We never give up,” left guard Quinton Tucker said. “We have a lot of heart.”
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Re: After years in the wilderness, Gretna football in midst

Postautor: evahe » 9 paź 2017, o 04:08

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