This was shaping up to be the season for which the Lower Richland football squad had long awaited.
After earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2007, the 2012 Diamond Hornets rolled into Blue Ridge as underdogs and came away with the program’s first playoff victory since 1995.
“To see those guys’ faces last week after the win, it was a great feeling. I’m glad to be playing in Week 12 that’s for sure,” said coach Daryl Page on Thursday as his team prepared for a second-round game at Daniel tonight. “There are teams with better records that have already taken inventory.”
But at the end of their practice, the Diamond Hornets’ determination turned to despair.
They were notified that the squad had been declared ineligible for postseason play due an ineligible player on the roster.
“Even though we are appealing, we will not be able to go and play a game tomorrow night,” Page said.
Blue Ridge will play Daniel instead.
The anticlimactic end of the Diamond Hornets’ journey through the postseason does not nullify the progress they have made in 2012.
“It’s a step for us, as far as where we’re going with the program,” Page said.
The coach, who led Wilson to a Class 3A title in 2007, said his goal at Lower Richland is a state title, and this season the Diamond Hornets were headed in that direction.
As the program’s third coach in four seasons, Page met little resistance from the Diamond Hornets, whose quick adaptation to his style and expectations put them on the path to success.
Lower Richland (5-6) started the season 0-3, but went on to a third-place finish in Region 4-3A.
Page said, “Once we experienced success, we really enjoyed the feeling. But we want to move from the feelings to the expectations.”
“We want it to be a yearly thing, where Lower Richland is one of the teams that you talk about at the end of the season. We want to be a program that is in that conversation every year. Daniel is already there, and that’s where we’re aiming,” Page said.
“Instead of it being a surprise, it should be an expectation,” he said.
For the players, that was already sinking in.
“We felt like could win every game we played,” said end Alonzo Gibson, one of 16 seniors on the team. “We worked hard for it, and we knew we could do it.”
“We went up (to Blue Ridge) expecting to win,” added receiver Devonta Hampton.
And though they reached the end of the road sooner than they hoped, the Diamond Hornets expect to win again.
Even if they must wait until 2013 to do it.