RALEIGH – Jim Bob Bryant was an assistant coach at Williamston for four state championship games. At Havelock, the Rams’ sixth-year mentor is enjoying his third-consecutive trip to the 3A state finals.
The pageantry and experience never gets old.
“It’s still a special day, anytime you get a chance to play in a state championship,” Bryant said at Monday’s state championship press conference in Raleigh. “This is a special moment for our coaches, community and our kids, especially for some of our young kids who have never been here before.”
Havelock is scheduled to play Concord at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. The Rams won titles in Chapel Hill in 2011 and Winston-Salem last season.
Bryant relishes in seeing the expression on the faces of his players.
“Having a chance to go two years ago in 2011, as a head coach, the experience I cherished the most was watching those kids on the field,” Bryant said. “We are in it for the kids, and to see the kids’ excitement on the field, and see them make good plays. The most exciting thing for me is seeing the kids’ reaction to everything.”
Bryant brought his entourage to Monday’s event, including athletics director Mitch Williams, Principal Dr. Jeffrey Murphy, and coaches Caleb King, Kenny Frazier, Chris Crowe, Garrett Crowe and Shane Williams.
N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren addressed the coaches, administrators and media members in attendance.
“You are making history with young men and their families,” Doeren said. “This is a week they will never forget. When the last second goes off on game day, you will know that you are the very best at your level at that very time.
“That is a moment in history that no one can take away from those kids.”
Havelock (15-0) won the eastern 3A regional championship with a 44-20 victory over Eastern Wayne last week. Up next is a rematch with unbeaten Concord (15-0).
The Rams ran away with a 55-21 win over the Spiders a year ago in Winston-Salem.
“We are going to make our rounds to play at N.C. State, after playing at Wake Forest last year and North Carolina the year before,” Bryant said. “We had a great experience the last two years, so we are hoping to have a similar experience here at N.C. State.”
Havelock held a normal practice Monday. It will do the same on Tuesday before practicing at East Carolina on Wednesday.
The Rams will practice on Thursday, and then have a school sendoff on Friday, followed by a walk-through at N.C. State.
Bryant said his players are ecstatic about playing for another state title.
“You would think they wouldn’t realize how special it is, but then you see them celebrate after the Eastern Finals, and see how excited they were,” Bryant said. “I told them we have one more game to go, but it is still exciting to win another Eastern Finals and play for a third-straight state championship.”
Not only is it a boost for the school and students, Bryant said it brings some pride to the Havelock community.
“(Running back) Derrell (Scott) said it best in a newspaper article. He said ‘Havelock is a football town,” Bryant said. “When I came in here and hired our staff six years ago, they had fallen on hard times in football, but they had a strong tradition.
“We’ve had a great influx in talent, kids who have bought into our program and a good administration that supports athletics. I feel blessed to be able to coach there.”
Havelock will begin selling advance state championship tickets at 11 a.m. Tuesday and will continue during normal school hours Wednesday and Thursday and again from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday at the school. They are $9 each. Tickets at the gate are $10.
Adam Thompson is a reporter for the Sun Journal.