Last week, Silverdale Baptist Academy's football players were faced with the difficulty of trying to put perhaps the most painful loss in the high school program's nine-year history behind them. Having 14 seniors helped.
The Seahawks did put behind them the 22-21 loss at Boyd-Buchanan that spoiled their unbeaten season and gave the Buccaneers the District 5-A championship. Proof came in the form of a 34-18 home victory over Rockwood last Friday in a Class 2A state playoff game that didn't start out going the Seahawks' way.
"We fumbled on the opening kickoff, and Josh Rogers never fumbles," Silverdale coach Al Rogers said. "Then we had a punt snap over the head, so basically the first two possessions we had went like that. They could've easily folded it up right then, but they didn't. These seniors just refuse to lose."
Silverdale (10-1) plays Friday at District 1 champion Hampton (7-3), which has averaged 42.2 points per game during its current five-game winning streak. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Running back and linebacker Matt McCulley is one of four Silverdale seniors who have played for Coach Rogers since they were in seventh grade, when he coached the middle school team. The McCulleys host gatherings for the seniors after every game - home and away.
"We're very, very close," Matt McCulley said of his classmates on the team. "Most of us have known each other since about the fifth or sixth grade. Some even longer."
The others who have been with Coach Rogers the longest are his son, Colton, a tight end and defensive end, two-way lineman Aubrey Shamblin and offensive lineman and linebacker Daniel Guinn.
Colton Rogers said watching the Monday film study of the Boyd-Buchanan loss made the pain linger a little longer.
"It was rough," he said of the feeling leaving the field that night. "We had never beaten them and we'd always just had that desire. We felt we really had some steam coming into that game this year. We were still hurting for a while, because it was a close loss and we knew what it meant."
He added that spirits began to pick up by Tuesday, and from there the group was back focused on the task at hand.
"You've just got to forget about it first and keep your eye on the prize, which is the playoffs," McCulley said. "Then you've just got to come to practice and work hard."
Among the Seahawks' tasks this week is guarding against being overconfident against a team they beat soundly in last year's playoffs.
"I think they're better than they were last year," McCulley said. "But our biggest concern is that we just come out and play our game. Then we don't have to worry about it."
The Bulldogs feature a power-based rushing attack, which suits Silverdale fine. Colton Rogers said he thinks it's helped that the Seahawks have played similar teams like Sweetwater, Bledsoe County and Grundy County.
"This is our kind of football Friday," Coach Rogers said. "It's not going to be what I call smoke and mirrors. They're going to come right at us. It's going to be a street fight; a wrestling match; last man standing."
Some of the seniors have transferred into Silverdale over the last few years. Others, such as Josh Rogers and Matt Millard, were looking for a new school after David Brainerd closed.
Colton is Coach Rogers' only biological son in the current graduating class of players, but it's evident the coach feels a kinship with all of them. And even if the team continues winning, there will come a time soon when those seniors take off that Silverdale uniform for the final time.
"I've seen them grow up," Coach Rogers said. "It's been a blessing to see what fine young men they've grown into. I do not want to think about that last game with them. It's going to hurt."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.