It’s a typical Friday night, which in the fall means one thing: Havelock High School football. Far beyond the shadows of the bright lights and black clad uniforms of the two-time defending state champions, a young group of Havelock Pop Warner Junior Pee Wee’s are quietly building a following during their second season of undefeated play in the Eastern North Carolina Pop Warner League. Defeating the likes of Jacksonville, New Bern, Newport and Swansboro, they imitate and emulate their Friday night heroes.
These (primarily) fifth-graders, some of whom have been playing together for five years, are building the next generation of players who play for each other and the H on their jerseys. They do battle every Saturday afternoon or early evening in workmanlike fashion.
Their success is somewhat of a surprise considering their biggest obstacle is finding a place to practice and play. If adversity builds character, this team has character to spare. At the start of this season, practice fields were in short supply. The recreation center off of Highway 101 spares little room beyond several soccer fields and baseball diamonds, and when it rains, the gates to the facility quickly close for football. The same Havelock Parks and Recreation leadership that cheers on Friday nights are quick to tell Havelock Pop Warner that the other sports that occupy the complex bring in “more money.”
Fortunately, through the generosity of Annunciation Catholic School, the team found a place to practice through September and the closed gates of the Recreation Complex. Dedicated coaches and parents lined fields and endured soggy, and often foul smelling, football gear thrown each day into their vehicles. These young boys, most of whom are 10 years of age, were given an opportunity to grow stronger, develop camaraderie, and set the stage for another perfect season.
Seven games, 7-0, and not one game has been played on Havelock soil. Through the generosity of Newport, New Bern and Harlowe, these Road Warriors have kept playing and winning. Perhaps they don’t yet understand what the H on their jersey represents. Perhaps they do. Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. They have revealed to the parents, family, coaches and league officials that no obstacle is insurmountable. Their pride in their community is firm, but is it reciprocated? Maybe they will have to wait until they are under the glare of the Friday night lights to receive that recognition, but they shouldn’t have to.
With one game left on the schedule, once again scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Recreation Complex, perhaps they can win their last game of the season on Havelock soil. They can then bring Havelock mud, sweat and tears with them when they begin their hopes for a trip to the Pop Warner Superbowl in Disney World to Wilmington on Nov. 9 for their first playoff game.
Anthony Cruz, Havelock