Homecoming took on a more literal meaning for the Noland family on Friday night. Former Warriors and the eldest sons of Oconee County High School head coach Travis Noland, Abe Noland and Zeb Noland both made it to the sidelines on Friday night after taking time off from their college football seasons.
The Noland brothers were home in time to see their youngest brother Ben Noland play for the first time in high school.
The journey to get Zeb to Watkinsville from Fargo, North Dakota was a long and winding adventure that left the Noland household a little lighter in the pockets after buying multiple plane tickets in order to make Friday’s homecoming possible.
“He was [excited to play] because we went through a lot to get Zeb home,” Travis said. “It’s not easy to fly from Fargo. It was worth it to have him here to let him see his brother play.”
Ben responded with his best game of 2019. He found the endzone for the first time in 2019 on Friday night. He finished the game with six catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. His performance has made Ben this week’s Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation/Oconee Enterprise Athlete of the Week.
“It just felt like we were back,” Ben said. “It felt like I was the only child for a while and I don’t like that. If felt good performing like I did with them there. It felted like I stepped up to the legacy that they left here.”
This week made a year to the day Ben tore his ACL for the second time. There were dark days as there were the first go around. This time carried deeper consequence. Ben questioned if he’d ever play the game again. He considered that his future with the 2019 Warriors could be as a coach.
“I didn’t know if I was going to give it up,” Ben said. “The Lord gave me another chance and I felt like I needed to take it.”
Now that he is on the field and he has seen how his brothers led in the past, Ben hopes to continue to grow into one of the Warriors’ leaders on the field.
“I feel like I have to match it [their legacies],” Ben said. “Even if it’s not performing like they did. I just want to be a leader like they were.”
Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation/Oconee Enterprise Athlete of the Week is chosen by the sports staff of The Oconee Enterprise. You are welcome to email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday at 10 a.m.
Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation can be reached at www.oconeept.com