BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) – The Pender High School football team was greeted by its fellow classmates Friday afternoon as the bus pulled away from the school and headed to Tarboro High School for the NCHSAA 1A football state semifinals.
The Patriots are looking to get back to the state championship for the first time since 2010, where they came up short under Head Coach Tom Eanes. Now, Eanes is back at the helm and says his group has gone through a unique set of challenges.
“It’s been a little different in the fact that we’re coming in behind COVID,” Eanes said. “That really threw everything into a big wrinkle that we had to overcome but, no, the kids are starting to buy in just like the other group did too and, so, I’ve been really pleased with the progress we’ve made.”
Eanes says this year’s team is different, noting this his players — despite little success in recent years — are ready to roll heading into kickoff tonight.
“Friday nights these kids are just been showing up and playing so I haven’t tried to wake them up,” said Eanes. “They seem to be in their own little world so I don’t wanna mess it up.”
The team is 10-3 heading into tonight’s game against the Vikings. Having won just five games in the previous two seasons, Eanes says the Patriots have shown tremendous growth.
“In early August, I mean, we couldn’t lineup right, we couldn’t take the proper steps,” said Eanes. “It’s the mental part I was worried about when the team is coming off of what is it one, one, three wins in the spring. They don’t know how to win and so that was the biggest worry I had but the kids have just sort of followed the blueprint. They’ve done everything we could ask.”
Tarboro is the top seed in the 1A East region and has won three of the last four state championships. The game kicks off at 7:00 p.m.
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