After second round 2019 exit, Highland Springs back in state semifinals

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - From 2015-2018, Highland Springs owned Class 5 football in Virginia. After a year that saw the Springers eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, they are on the brink of returning to the state championship game. It may be a different time of year, but the state semifinal feeling is the same.

“We’ve had an opportunity to play during spring break, which is like Thanksgiving, and now you’re playing the last two weeks of the year,” said Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson.

The Springers are coming off that second round playoff exit in 2019, falling to Varina, which ended their streak of four consecutive state titles. While that defeat was disappointing at the time, Johnson says the loss was valuable and taught his team some lessons.

“Losing to Varina, we learned a lot about ourselves,” the head coach noted. “We learned a lot about ourselves as a program and we learned a lot about ourselves as athletes.”

This season, Highland Springs was awarded the Region 5B championship after a positive COVID-19 case ended Manchester’s season, thus cancelling the region title game. This is certainly not the way the Springers had hoped to advance, but they still enter the state semifinals as a formidable force- 7-0 and the top seed in the region.

“You always want to go out on the field and compete,” junior defensive end Rashaud Pernell said. “Last week was just about getting our bodies back under us and stuff. We still went out there in practice everyday and practiced hard, but it is what it is.”

“You don’t ever want anybody to put an asterisk on your season,” added Johnson. “People can if they want to this year. We don’t look at it that way.”

Awaiting the black and gold in the semifinals is defending state champion Maury. The Commodores enter with a 6-1 record and their only blemish came in week two to Lake Taylor. Maury rolled past Deep Creek in the Region 5A title game, 41-0.

“We’ll find out what we are,” Johnson pointed out. “Maury’s a great football team, they’ve done extremely well and they’ve put themselves in a position to be here, playing in this game in the state semifinal two years in a row. They are the state champions. We understand that.”

For Springer fans, last year seemed strange without their team in the state championship game, but now Highland Springs is on the verge of returning once again.

“It means everything. That’s what we’re out here for,” said Pernell. “We’re going to handle business. That’s it.”

“We’re just thankful to be here, but we want to win,” added Johnson. “We do want to win and we want to represent our region and represent the state as best as we possibly can.”

Highland Springs and Maury kick off at 2:00 PM on Saturday at Powhatan Field in Norfolk. The two programs last met in the 2018 state semifinals, a 71-28 Springer victory.

Also in action this Saturday is West Point in the Class 1 semifinals, hosting Riverheads at 1:00 PM.

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