Trojans Focused on Latest Upset Opportunity in Class A Upper State Title Game
PLEASE NOTE: Look for our game preview featuring the Wagener-Salley War Eagles on Thanksgiving Day!
MONETTA, S.C. – When Brian Smith began his high school football head coaching career over two decades ago, his teams were annual contenders in the state playoffs. Twenty-three years later, he stands in that same position in his first year as head coach of the Ridge Spring-Monetta Trojans.
“It’s been twenty-three years since I’ve practiced on Thanksgiving Day and so it’s great to be back, especially with my son (sophomore Bret Smith) playing and being able to share that with him and being able to have it happen this year with this community, it’s been awesome,” Smith stated.
Smith is even more excited, however, to have the opportunity to coach such an outstanding group of young men. The team has come so far from his first few days on campus in the summer, when learning names and setting the weight room schedule were the top priorities.
“It was a whirlwind for us when we first got here because we were just trying to learn everyone’s name, find out who was in summer school and who could go to seven-on-seven competition, and trying to fit kids into positions,” Smith recalls of his first few weeks on campus. “Now, here we are and we’re practicing on Thanksgiving, which is what you want to do every year. You know if you are practicing on Thanksgiving you have a chance to have an unbelievable accomplishment. We have that opportunity and it’s right here in front of us. When the band is practicing the Christmas concert and you are out here practicing, that’s a good day. We’re very excited.”
Smith’s team has a 9-4 record, and is coming off of a thrilling playoff road victory at Blackville-Hilda in three overtimes. Of the four games the Trojans lost this season, all were to ranked teams in Class A and Class AA. One of those opponents, Saluda High, will play at multi-time defending 2-A state champion Abbeville on Friday. One season loss was avenged last week at Blackville-Hilda.
If the Trojans have their way, another loss will be avenged in dramatic, upset-style fashion this week at archrival Wagener-Salley High in the Class A Upper State Title Game. By the time of kickoff on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (gates open at 5:30 p.m.) it will be a game in which the Trojans have competed in three times over the last five years. The War Eagles are undefeated at 12-0 and are the undisputed top-ranked team in Class A football. Wagener-Salley also won the regular-season matchup between the two teams in a lopsided 40-6 final.
“We are going to have to try to control the line of scrimmage and play a lot better than we did up front the first time,” commented Smith. “We can’t give up the big plays like we did in the last game. We want to make them work for yards instead of giving up the big plays. They played a lot better than us in that game. They also created some turnovers. We held them on defense and then we fumbled the ball away and it just took the wind out of our sails, so we have to eliminate that. Both teams will have to adjust to the crowd. It will be a neat atmosphere.”
Smith feels that a difficult Region 5-A schedule had his team prepared for playoff football.
“We felt all year that we were playing in a tough region, and that proved to be the case this year with three teams from our region advancing to the Upper State semifinals,” stated Smith. “We felt like that really prepared us well for the playoffs. Last week’s game was just crazy and it was just an incredible feeling and an incredible win for our program.”
Senior Daniel Harris, a defensive back and wide receiver, says the road win over Hawks has given the Trojans a boost of confidence heading into Friday’s ballgame.
“When you play as a team you can do great things,” D.B. stated. “We have to keep our heads up and not have any turnovers. We’ve really come together.”
Sophomore running back Dantrell Weaver agrees, adding that the victory was a test of collective wills, one the Trojans eventually won.
“It was a game where it was just going to be who wanted it more,” Dantrell commented. “It was a team game, and we did it as a team. We can do lot with the talent we have.”
Sophomore quarterback Remedee Leaphart did not participate in the first matchup against the War Eagles due to an injury. He says the Trojans are ready to test themselves on the road once again.
“I’m just feeling excited right now,” stated Remedee. “My line really stepped up for me and the guys came through and we got the win against Blackville-Hilda. This time we want to shock the world.”
As the team practices on a cool, brisk evening under the lights of a new stadium unveiled this season, drivers passing by on Columbia Highway honk their horns, saluting the team. Players across the field raise their hands in the air to acknowledge the support.
It’s only Monday, but the “big game” feeling present in the fall air is undeniable.
“We get that all the time,” Smith says of the nearby horn-blowing. “That’s a constant thing out here. We get some things yelled at us that aren’t really good sometimes, but most of it is really positive. It’s kind of fun to see the guys in the eighteen-wheelers come by and hit the horn at us. Most of them are probably not from around here, but they drive by and see a field and maybe think of their high school career. We are just excited to be playing football this week.”
LINK TO DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE: 2019 PR TROJANS FOCUSED ON BIG GAME