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State title within reach as Highland Springs caps off unique season

Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 11:34 PM EDT
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HIGHLAND SPRINGS, Va. (WWBT) - Highland Springs has gotten used to playoff runs that end in state championships since the fall of 2015, and while it may be becoming a normal happening, Springers’ head coach Loren Johnson does not want that feeling to become too familiar.

“Everybody can make a mistake and take it for granted, and I don’t want to take it for granted,” Johnson said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “I want to make sure that every feeling is unique because every team is unique and every game that you play in the state championship is unique.”

“Most people don’t get a chance to be here,” added Springers’ senior running back Rae’Shon Smith. “We take advantage of it always.”

While one game remains for the black and gold, one could argue that they’ve already conquered the toughest opponent of the season, simply by getting to play and making it this far. COVID-19 has had very little interference on Highland Springs itself, causing no postponements or setbacks during the delayed 2020 season.

“At times it was pretty challening,” said Smith. “We had to wear masks and stuff, but we always get through.”

“This group has persevered through a lot,” Johnson added. “This has been a very very unique situation that I’m just proud to be a part of, to be honest with you.”

Johnson notes that many of his seniors missed the opportunity to attend offseason camps or recruiting events and several of his juniors worked to add weight so they could get a shot to play.

While the season may have been unique, the Springers’ state title game opponent is not. Stone Bridge was on the losing end of three of Highland Springs’s previous four state crowns (2015, 2016, 2018), so Johnson and company expect the Bulldogs to be anxious to break through.

“They’ve mentioned it a little bit in some of their news articles up the road,” Johnson noted. “We know that they think about us a lot and definitely, during this week, we think about them a lot, so we’re on the front of each other’s minds.”

It’s certainly been a strange season that will come to an end on Saturday, when the Springers will try to conclude it in, for them, the most normal way possible.

“Everybody has given a lot,” said Johnson. “For us to win five state championships would mean a lot in this modern era.”

Highland Springs won four state titles in a row from 2015-2018, before falling to Varina in the second round of the playoffs last season.

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