Spring Creek football coach Aaron Sanders remembers what it’s like return to the football field after a devastating flood.
He was a freshman when Hurricane Floyd struck Eastern North Carolina in 1999 and recognized the looks on his player’s faces when they came in for practice Monday.
Football players returning to practice was the first sign of a return to normalcy after a week of canceled classes throughout Wayne County after Hurricane Matthew, but only about 80 percent of the team was there. Thursday was the first day back in school after missing eight school days.
“You could tell the kids were really drained,” Sanders said. “I know what it’s like.”
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The Neuse River flooded two players out of their homes. Junior Cole Jacobs and senior Demontae Rose depended on the coaching staff all week for rides.
“They got us here every day,” Jacobs said. “They came and picked us up.”
Roads near the school were still closed Friday night.
“We’ve got a community that’s lost a ton,” Sanders said. “We told our guys to come out and give the community something to be proud of – something to take their minds off everything.”
After trailing 21-7, Rosewood drove to a late third quarter touchdown to make it a one-score margin. Another drive in the fourth quarter led to a 7-yard touchdown run by quarterback Cameron Helt.
Down 21-20 on the road with 8:27 left, the Eagles went for the go-ahead two-point conversion, but Helt was downed in the backfield.
Rosewood recovered the onside kick, but the offense couldn’t convert on fourth down. The Gators took over, then punted. Rosewood again found itself needing a conversion to avoid a turnover, but the Spring Creek defense got another big stop on fourth down.
Spring Creek’s Jensen Barwick picked off Helt’s desperation heave in the final minute, as the Gator defense turned Rosewood (3-6, 1-3) away three times in the final quarter to seal the one-point victory and improve to 4-5 overall and 3-1 in the Carolina 1A Conference.
Sanders praised his players after the game for how they dealt with adversity, especially defensive unit, which lost a coach to a military deployment.
Rose, a defensive end , said he was just happy to be at “the Swamp,” again, just in time for senior night.
“We’re glad we still got the chance to come out here,” he said.
Sanders remembers that feeling, and how important it is to give a rebuilding community something to root for.