Crest coach Mark Barnes – whose Chargers (15-0) face three-time champion Havelock (14-1) for the NCHSAA 3A state title on Saturday in Raleigh – is coaching in the state finals for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
This year’s team has already tied the school record for wins in a season, and a win in Saturday’s state championship game would not give Crest its fifth state title but its first undefeated and untied season since 1994.
At what point did you think you had another state title contender? “When we started practicing, to be honest with you. I thought this group had the potential to be where they are now. We knew the expectations were real; we wanted to make sure we dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, and did the things we needed to do every day to make this happen. Last year, we were young and found a way to win. This year, those guys are older and more experienced. It’s comforting as a head coach knowing that your players have been involved in those type of battles before, and you know how they’re going to react to it.”
Initial impressions of Havelock? “They’ve just been unbelievable the past three, four years. They’re very similar to us – they’ve got a lot of team speed, especially on defense. Offensively, they’re very diverse. They just don’t have a glaring weakness on their team. You get this late in the year, you don’t have a lot of weaknesses. They’re a quality opponent, and one you have to respect – they’ve won it three years in a row.”
How’s your team’s health? “We’ve been fortunate – this is the first time we’ve ever gone to a state championship game, and we’re really healthy. We don’t even have many bumps and bruises. If you look at our video from Week 1 and the video from last week, it’s the same people out there. That’s hard to do.”
Biggest surprise this season? “To think we’re in Week 16, and our defense has given up one touchdown the first week, and it gave up a touchdown in Week 15. In between, nobody has scored on our first-team defense. When you’ve played 15 games and your starting defense has given up only two touchdowns, that’s remarkable to me.”