The first home playoff game in Warrior Stadium in 15 years wasn’t all sunshine and daisies; in fact there wasn’t any sunshine at all.
The stands weren’t exactly full due to the constant nagging drizzle and bone-chill in the air.
The good news, for the ones that weren’t up for a playoff bout with Mother Nature on Friday night is that they won’t have to wait 15 years to see another home playoff game. The Warriors’ 41-14 defeat of Northwest Whitfield in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs assured that.
With the weather keeping the crowd somewhat subdued, the Warriors found their own motivation and created their own big-game atmosphere.
“We find the momentum through each other,” senior running back Jimmy Boswell said. “I know the next person to me is going to put just as much heart into the game as I will for him. What he gives, I’m going to give in return for him. It’s all love.”
It didn’t always look as pretty as the score indicated on Friday night. The Warriors came out fast after the Bruins attempted an onside kick on the opening kickoff. Senior Max Johnson hit Ben Noland on a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Then, the Warrior hit a little snag in momentum. The Bruins recovered a Johnson fumble and found the end zone a few plays later to tie the game.
On the ensuing kickoff the Bruins recovered their onside kick attempt. The Warrior’s defense made a stand. OCHS junior Justin Coleman’s 69-yard touchdown run sparked some normalcy and seemed to settle the Warriors.
Over the next three quarters the Warriors leaned on their rushing attack and chewed up ground and clock. Boswell carried the ball 38 times 227 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the night. Boswell also became the first running back to go over 1,000 yards under head coach Travis Noland at OCHS.
Boswell gives credit to the Warriors’ offensive line for his performance.
“I’ve said it multiple times, that my line is the whole reason why I’m getting any of those yards,” Boswell said. “I’m thankful for all of them and the wide receivers who were out there blocking on the edges too. I can’t give any of the credit to myself.”
The Warriors have shown their resilience in multiple games in 2019 and Noland walked away Friday night having seen his team do it again. The Warriors have grown to a point where lulls and bumps throughout games are the opening of a door that leads to a flood.
Friday night was no different. After their initial haymaker staggered Northwest Whitfield and the Warriors took two proverbial punches themselves they calmed, steadied and controlled the rest of the night.
“We live to fight another day,” Noland said. “We fought through some things early. We scored so quickly and then we had that little emotional lull and then they got a turnover, scored and then got the onside kick...We’re just trying to get through and keep fighting to play another week. It’s hard, because there is that finality in the back of everyone’s mind that if we lose this game, it’s over. We’ve been telling them all week to just play and not press. That’s hard to do some times. We fought through that and hopefully next week we’ll have a little better weather, a little more support and we’ll play a little better.”
The Warriors will host No. 3 seeded Perry High School, who defeated Hampton High School 38-0 in the first round on Friday night.