The Evans and Greenbrier high school football teams aren't going to the state playoffs this season, but the future looks bright for both the Knights and Wolfpack.
The Greenbrier junior varsity squad beat all the other Columbia County JV teams this season, and secured local bragging rights with a 31-30 overtime win against Evans in the first-ever Columbia County Junior Varsity Championship.
"All the credit goes to the kids. This is their season, their championship and they deserve it," Greenbrier offensive JV coach Clint Woodfin said. "They really pulled together as a team and have done their part to make this a great season."
While the Pack was slipping by the Knights at the Brierpatch on Oct. 31, the Evans freshman team was having its own Halloween party at Blanchard Stadium, finishing off an unbeaten season with a 20-0 win over Thomson's freshman team.
"I guess you could call us two-county champions," Evans coach Dave Machovec said.
Winning JV and freshmen football titles may not guarantee future success on the varsity level, but the lessons learned this season could carry over.
"I think it gives them more confidence when they move up to varsity," said Mike Meyer, junior varsity defensive coach for the Pack. "They know if they can beat these teams as freshmen and sophomores, they can do it as seniors."
The Greenbrier junior varsity featured offensive stars Mark Boiter (tackle), Brandon Grant (quarterback), Donald Davis (tailback) and Erik Smith (fullback).
The Evans High School freshman football team finished its undefeated season with a 20-0 drubbing of the Thomson High School freshman team.
Smith scored the tying touchdown against Evans in the county championship game, and Keith Maxwell kicked the extra point to seal the Greenbrier victory.
Defensively, the Pack was led by linebackers Reggie Rice and Josh Davis, free safety Chedric McElderry and defensive tackle Charles Middleton.
Greenbrier's JV, which took a 5-1 record into the season finale against Lincoln County last week, had to sweat out some close games.
The Evans freshmen team, on the other hand, rolled to five convincing wins, outscoring opponents 136-18 to post a perfect record in 2002.
"The ninth-grade group this year was athletic, intense and, most importantly, fundamentally sound," Coach Machovec said. "The coaching staff invested a lot of time in the freshman team, and the investment paid off. If we can keep this group together the next three years, great things could happen."
Offensive standouts for Evans were running back Shawn Maw, wide receiver Shawn Ward (five touchdown receptions) and quarterback Israel Machovec (nine TD passes and two rushing scores). Leading the way on the offensive line were Chase McGill, Tyler Werrick and tight end Matt Starke.
The Knights were also dominant defensively - top performers were nose guard Daryll Haskins (team leader in sacks and tackles), and defensive ends Wes Baxter and Will Grooms.
Darrell Ketchup contributed on both sides of the ball for Evans, playing linebacker and fullback.
Although the Evans and Greenbrier varsity teams have some sophomores contributing this season, it's rare for an underclassmen to get much playing time. That makes the JV and freshman football games a valuable proving ground.
"The main thing is experience," Coach Meyer said. "There's no substitute for getting out there under the lights with fans watching in a game situation."
Next year, many of the young players at Evans and Greenbrier will have a chance to display their talents on Friday nights with their respective varsity teams.
"I'd have to say almost all of the JV players will contribute on varsity next year," Coach Woodfin said. "Week to week they're still improving, but they all have a tremendous work ethic. They are focused an mentally tough."
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