For the fourth time in as many years, Hammond emerged from SCISA Class 3A competition as the state champion.
The Skyhawks won their most exciting title yet, with a 50-30 defeat of rival Heathwood Hall at Charlie Johnson Stadium in Columbia.
Even after the clock settled at 0:00, coach Erik Kimrey could not believe his team had won the 2009 title. When reality set in, Kimrey sat down to tell The State about Hammond's most recent victory.
What did it feel like leading up to a fourth championship game?
Each year, each team, each game is unique, so for sure it is a little different. But, of course, we had some experience to draw back on. We were familiar with some of the routine and we knew what some of the distractions would be and were able to kind of avoid getting caught up in that.
What did you tell the kids to help them focus?
Most of the guys this year did not play in last year's championship game, so we told them, you know, this is going to be your championship, your year. We don't talk about streaks, and winning the next championship. We focus on them playing the best they can on one night.
How did your one regular-season loss affect your team?
It definitely helped us to a degree. A lot of our guys don't take to losing very much, so I think that got them focused again. A good dose of a loss can be beneficial in a lot of ways and, in this case, I think it was. I think our kids were more focused, even more dedicated after that.
What was it like playing against Heathwood, who you hadlost toduring the regular season?
Every championship we've won, we played against somebody we had already played, so this was not much different. But I think it brought out the urgency of it and that brought out the best in our guys. It was really rewarding to see guys like Aaron Walters, Dave Nidiffer and B.J. Bennett have the best games they have had in that game. It was just one of the most enjoyable games I've been a part of.
How crucial was your senior class this season?
Well, we only had three seniors that returned from last year, and then we had three that just came out, so it was a small senior class. But the ones that we had were solid for us. Those guys really had, like I said, a sense of urgency that showed on the field.
I will never forget these guys. I will never forget Aaron Walker and his competitiveness, and the type of person he is. He's the only kid that dressed out for all four of these championship pictures.
This was a special senior class, a special team and they had to overcome more than any other team I've had to win this year.
For your younger players, what do you hope they learned from this season?
"I hope they learned some lessons they can use in life: Hard work pays off. That no one is going to give you everything, you have to go out and take it; that they always have to believe in themselves. I think some of them maybe bought into the idea that we were supposed to have a down year, but at the end of the day they surprised a lot of people, maybe even surprised themselves."
You have already accomplished a lot as a coach, what are you looking to do next?
"I want to keep things in perspective, hold true to why I'm in coaching-to work with young people and use the game of football to teach them about character and life."