They say it feels like a movie – the kind where an underdog team’s success precipitates a swell of community spirit, which they ride to victory.
In the case of the Mount Pleasant High School football team, the plot doesn’t include a state title, but it still has a feel-good ending.
On Dec. 5, in a battle to represent western North Carolina in the state championship game, the Tigers fell to the Shelby Golden Lions. Two days later, I talked with some of the seniors from the Mount Pleasant squad about their season: what made it special and why they feel a little like movie stars.
Brandon Hartsell, Tucker Furr, Josh Davis, Ty Pruitt and John Wax all agreed the support they felt from their school and the Mount Pleasant community during their playoff run was amazing.
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Total strangers at the gas station, people at church and elementary school children would recognize them, offering congratulations and good luck. What-A-Burger gave them a free meal. And the fans who traveled to Black Mountain and Shelby effectively eliminated the home field advantage for Mount Pleasant’s opponents.
“We had more fans there than they did,” Pruitt declared.
Although the loss to Shelby was still fresh and they were disappointed in the result, they had no regrets. “We played hard … as hard as usual,” Furr said. Maybe even harder, his teammates suggested, citing the unprecedented aches and fatigue they still felt.
“We just didn’t get the momentum,” Wax said.
It was “really depressing” to lose, they all said, but are proud of what they accomplished this season.
“We’ve never had a season like this,” Wax said.
Ask these players what’s made this team so special, and without hesitation they’ll tell you it’s team chemistry.
“We all get along,” Furr said. “People don’t understand how much team means to us.”
They enjoy hanging out together. They support each other, and they know each other really well. Some of them have been playing football together since they were 5 or 6 years old, and they still remember whose team won the championship each year.
Add that chemistry to hard work, intelligent play, lack of ego and a coaching staff that emphasizes good values as much as good football, and you get a team people will remember for years to come.
“We’ve set the bar high,” Davis said.
“I hope we leave a legacy to give glory to God,” Furr added.
“And changed the emphasis to a team focus,” Wax said.
Now that the football season is finally over, these seniors will have time for things like homework, college applications or other sports, and they can stop trying to tackle and hit each other. Or maybe not, because these teammates are more like brothers who occasionally wrestle or fight, but love each other anyway.
They may be finished with football, but they will continue to be young men their school and community can be proud of.