Next season started for Rosewood’s football team as it knelt to listen to head coach Robert Britt during its post-game huddle on Friday evening.
The Eagles had just lost to Northside-Pinetown, 35-34, in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoffs.
Though the road to the championship ended, Britt said this group of Eagles left quite a legacy at Rosewood High School.
“We ask a lot of our players, and to be a good high school football player, you’ve got to prepare year-round, as well as play your other sports,” Rosewood head coach Robert Britt said. “I love every one of them, and it’s always a bad feeling when you walk off the field and you don’t get to where you thought you could.
“I know they’re going to learn from it and grow from it, and they’re going to become great men.”
The Panthers received the opening kickoff and marched down to the field. Northside running back James Gorham capped off the Panthers’ drive with a 55-yard touchdown run.
Rosewood responded with a 12-play drive and reached the Northside-Pinetown five-yard line, but on third-and-goal, quarterback Will Harris was intercepted in the end zone.
Ten plays later, the Panthers took a 13-0 lead when Gorham ran down the left side of the field for a 23-yard touchdown.
“This was a third-round ball game in the first round, and Northside is a very ball team, so we don’t have anything to be ashamed of losing a close game to them,” Britt said.
The Eagles got on the board on their next drive.
On the first play of the drive, Terquavis Butler broke off a big run and was tackled near the Panthers’ goalline, and three players later, Harris burst into the end zone for a six-yard touchdown.
But Northside-Pinetown led 28-14 at halftime.
“You can’t get in such a hole, and I’ve got to start doing a better job of making game changes in the first half,” Britt said. “We allowed ourselves to get in a 14-point hole before we were able to make the changes.”
The Eagles started the second half with a hungry look in their eyes. They opened the second half with a six-play 54-yard touchdown drive, but the extra point was blocked.
The Rosewood defense forced the Panthers to turn the ball over downs, and the Rosewood offense got the ball back with a chance to tie the game.
Six plays later, Harris directed a drive that ended with Avante George’s 16-yard touchdown run.
George also converted the two-point attempt, and with 4:50 left in the third quarter, the Eagles tied the game 28-28.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Eagle defense once again got a big stop, and with 9:56 left in the game, the Eagles took their first lead of the game when George sprinted into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Eagles missed the extra point but still held a 34-28 lead with seven minutes left.
“Avante has had a great night every night, and I’m so happy for him,” Britt said. “In this COVID time where there’s not as many scholarships, somebody is going to pick up a diamond in the rough with him.”
However, it did not take long for the Panthers to take back the lead, and Tyler Modlin’s 55-yard touchdown run tied the game.
The Panthers converted the extra point and now led 35-34 with 6:17 left in the game.
On their ensuing drive, the Eagles marched down the field and reached the Panthers’ 24-yard line, but the drive stalled, and the Eagles were forced the kick a field goal with 51 seconds left.
The field goal attempt was no good, the Panthers escaped Rosewood with the victory.
“I couldn’t ask for better kids and the way they work hard,” Britt said. “There were times when we could come back and win the game, but in this one, we just couldn’t.
“It’s a testament to our kids to how they played for the entire game, and I’m just so proud of them.
It was the final game for seniors, George, Harris, Logan Merritt, Austin Bissette, Cameron Revels, Kameron Lamm, Trevor Gerow, Ivan Oliva-Almanza and Elijah Joyner.