RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — One local high school football team fights for redemption on Friday, December 2, 2022.
In 2021, the Independence Patriots fell in the WVSSAC AA State championships. The pain the players, coaches, and community felt as they watched Fairmont Senior take home the trophy still lasts to this day.
“I think about it every day. Walking off the island last year, it’s just the emotion that I had. Every day,” said senior running back Judah Price.
“You know, it’s like it feels like yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like a long time ago. So I think we still got the fire built up from where we lost and we’re just excited to be back, and hopefully, we get the win this time,” said senior wideout Cyrus Goodson.
“I mean, God put eyes in front of our head not the back of our head, so I hadn’t even thought about that for one second about last year,” said Patriots Head Coach John Lilly.
This season the Patriots put together another perfect season, and they look to keep it that way.
Lilly said this time around, the biggest point of emphasis focuses on keeping his players’ minds right.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve been working on this week is trying to stay focused in and eliminate the white noise. There’s been a lot of talk going on about who is going to do what and all this kinda stuff, so just trying to keep everybody focused in. You know we learned last year that this week goes by really fast so it is all about staying in preparation,” said Lilly.
“Stay focused. You know, at the beginning of it we looked at the bracket and we knew we going to have a tough ride. So we just put our head down and grind, we beat Bluefield, we beat Fairmont, North Marion, now we’ve just got one more game,” said Goodson.
“But I think it was really good for us to play that gantlet because it kept us focused. And so it was a godsend. I think that we did that because I don’t think if we stayed focused, we’d be, you know, we wouldn’t be here right now,” said Lilly.
Now all eyes are set on their matchup against the number nine seed, the Herbert Hoover Huskies, but as the Patriots know all too well, seeding is only a number.
They won nine straight games and you don’t win nine straight games unless you’re a good football team. So, you know, we know we got our work cut out for them,” said Lilly.
Aside from bringing home the championship, Price and the Patriots want to put southern West Virginia on the map.
“It’s everybody that has been to the school before and played football. They’re all supporting us in every way possible. So, I mean, I think we’re doing it for the whole community and all the fans, to be honest,” said Price.