Southern Nash football coach Brian Foster wasn’t on the sideline, but the message was painted in bold letters across the 50-yard line: “FOSTER STRONG.” The tight-knit community turned out for a standing-room-only 21-10 victory against reigning 3A champion Rocky Mount on Friday night, while Foster missed the second straight game while his son and wife recover from an automobile accident.
Junior Nadir Thompson switched his jersey to No. 14 to play in honor of Foster’s son Zak, a former teammate who was an N.C. Coaches Association East-West All-Star selection last year and is now enrolled at N.C. Wesleyan.
He did the jersey proud, catching a first-half touchdown pass and intercepting the game-sealing pass with seconds left.
“Coming up to this game we had a lot of emotion because of things that had happened with Foster,” Thompson said. “It’s possible I’ll keep it the whole season. It depends on what Zak wants me to do.”
Zak is being transferred closer to home for rehab and the hope is Mrs. Foster may soon follow suit.
“It’s different, because coach Foster is that guy you can go to if you’ve got a problem with a teacher or a problem with anybody; just a problem in life,” Thompson said. “But in football, he always told us ‘We’ll play with or without somebody. If he ain’t here, then we’ve got to play without him.’ So we’ve got to keep working.”
The Firebirds (9-0, 3-0 Big East 3A) are close to clinching a conference title thanks to two big wins in a difficult time.
“It’s a testament to the program he’s built,” interim coach Brian Batchelor said.
THEY SAID IT
“With what we do on offense, offensive line is almost a rock star position,” Batchelor said. “And everybody can say that. But when you’re a spread offense, and you tell your offensive line they’re the reason you’re running the ball, but it ain’t. For us, if our offensive line plays bad, we’re done. And they played well (tonight) – we had a shot.”
THREE TO KNOW
Da’One Wilkins, Southern Nash: The linebacker was in the backfield all night, making big tackles for loss.
Kendrick Bell, Southern Nash: Had both Firebirds rushing touchdowns (20 carries, 55 yards).
Deangelo Collins, Rocky Mount: Ran 13 times for 58 yards and one touchdown, which was the only Gryphons run of more than 20 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Plays Rocky Mount in the first quarter.
“You’ve got to get them off the field. Hey, tip your cap. With what they do, you’ve got to execute and they did a better job on both sides for the night,” said Gryphons coach Jason Battle.
2: Roughing the passer penalties on Rocky Mount on Southern Nash’s final touchdown drive.
46: Minutes it took to complete the first half.
1 hour, 57 minutes: Time it took to complete the whole game.