HIGHLAND SPRINGS, Va. (WWBT) - About 100 yards from where the Highland Springs field house sits, construction on the Springers’ new stadium is progressing. Bleachers are visible on both sides of what will eventually be the 100 yard ground on which the team will feast.
As crews continue to build the stadium, Loren Johnson and his staff build the Springers for an unconventional season that will kick off in two weeks. That all starts with getting back on the field, after the pandemic forced a long fall without football.
“I’m not going to say it’s over,” Johnson said. “We’ve still got a lot of hurdles to overcome, a lot of things we’ve got to take care of, but we’re excited we’ve progressed to the next step. We’re outside, we’ve got helmets and shoulder pads on.”
2019 saw the Springers’ streak of four consecutive state championships snapped, after a second round loss to arch-rival Varina. The team has had a little bit longer to let that postseason exit sink in.
“It changed their mindset. It puts them in a different perspective,” noted Johnson. “For the most part, our guys, they were hungry already, but now they just got a little bit more hunger in them.”
“We definitely don’t want to feel that pain ever again,” said senior cornerback Damond Harmon. “Everybody we play is going to have to feel what we felt, especially Varina.”
Harmon and fellow Oklahoma commit Kelvin Gilliam headline a roster that is once again full of Power Five and Division I talent. Jamareeh Jones (Boston College), Jabari Parker (Virginia Tech) and Jordan Jackson (St. Francis) will also be a big part of an experienced and talented group looking to get Highland Springs back to Championship Saturday.
“Last year, we kind of lost that a little bit,” Harmon said. “That’s kind of the reason why we lost. We kind of lost the standard, so we’re trying to get the standard back.”
“They set the tone for the program, not just the defense, on both sides of the ball and on special teams, all three phases,” Johnson said of his Oklahoma commits, along with many other experienced players. “They are the trendsetters. They’re the guys that are going to help us move.”
Programs focus on one play at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time, and Highland Springs is no different, but the Springers are certainly aware of the unique opportunity that 2021 presents. They have a chance to claim two state titles in one calendar year.
“To do something special that’s never been done before, we have to dominate the calendar year,” Johnson noted. “That’s kind of where our goal is in that point in time, so without saying it, I’m saying it.”
Highland Springs kicks off its season on February 27 at Mills Godwin.
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