No amount of rain was going to deny Wayne Christian this moment.
Three seasons ago, the Eagles restarted their football program, and on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Wayne Christian defeated Halifax Academy 28-8 in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association DII state championship game.
“Our motto all year was P.F.G. You probably heard us say it. It means to prepare for glory, so we’ve been talking about preparing for glory since day one,” Wayne Christian head coach Luis Miranda said. “I’m just so proud of these boys. They were focused, and they worked hard.
“They’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
The Eagles dedicated their historic win to senior captain Michael Mills, who could not play in the game.
“This game was emotional for them. Losing one of their team captains,” Miranda said.
Miranda and the 12 seniors on the roster got to go out on top. Miranda announced that he is stepping down as the Eagles’ head coach and assistant coach Daniel Pugh will take over the football program.
“It’s bitter-sweet because coming into the season, I knew it was going to be my last season,” Miranda said. “I’ve always believed you leave things better than when you found them. I just wanted to get the program back on steady footing.”
The Vikings punted on the game’s opening possession, and three plays into its first drive, Wayne Christian scored on Shiquan Ethridge’s five-yard scamper.
Down 8-0 late in the first quarter, Halifax Academy embarked on an 18-play 83-yard drive that took over eight minutes. However, on fourth-and-goal at the Eagles’ six-yard line, the Vikings turned the ball over downs.
Wayne Christian took over with 8:19 left in the second quarter, and on the first play of the drive, Ethridge gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead when he burst down the field for a 96-yard touchdown run.
“We talked about in pregame wanting to take their (Halifax) will to fight,” Miranda said. “It was a cold game, and to play from behind in that environment is always going to be hard, so we wanted to take that will away.”
Halifax’s Braxton Hammack 31-yard gallop made it a 14-8 ballgame. On the ensuing drive, Ethridge scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Eagles a 20-8 lead at halftime.
On the opening possession of the second half, Ethridge scored his fourth and final touchdown to push the Eagles ahead 28-8.
“We wanted to make sure that they understood that this was going to be a four-quarter game and that if we wore them out, did our job, and executed, then we’d be able to win this game,” Miranda said.
With the rain coming down throughout the rest of the second half, the Eagles continued to hold off the Vikings, and when the clock struck all zeros, the Eagles celebrated winning the state title by giving their head coach a Gatorade shower.
Even though he is stepping away from the football program, Miranda said this is only the beginning for the Eagles, who plan to remain in state title contention for the foreseeable future.
“We wanted to make sure that when we close this chapter that this isn’t just a one-and-done,” Miranda said. “We want to become a program that is competing for state championships on a regular basis.
“I’m going to enjoy watching coach Pugh and the work he’s going to do.”