The Havelock Rams are headed to the 3A state championship game in Winston-Salem this weekend. It’s becoming a routine.
The Rams defeated West Rowan 38-6 last season for the school’s first state title in football since 1971.
On Saturday, the Rams face Concord in an attempt to win back-to-back state titles.
Several of the team’s players were in Chapel Hill last season to celebrate the victory. They are expecting to feel much of the same emotions this year.
“I don’t think it will be too different this year,” Havelock senior quarterback Pharoh Cooper said. “Since I’m a senior, it will, but we still have to go out there and play ball like we always do and be humble about it. It is special though to be playing my last high school game in the state championship.”
Cooper was the Offensive Most Valuable Player in the championship game — catching passes from Garrett Crowe, who is helping coach the Rams this season.
“This year’s team has more options and more weapons than we did last year,” Crowe said. “Pharoh is a dual-threat quarterback and there is just more team speed. This team’s defense is better, they tackle a lot better. They’re excited, this is what they’ve strived for all year long.”
The role of the Rams has definitely changed.
No longer are they the hunters looking to slay a giant. Now, they are the big, bad bully on the block with people targeting them.
“That’s just what it is now,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “We are the hunted. People are wanting to be the team that beats us.
“For the guys and coaches, it isn’t too different. We still have the same goals and agendas as always and we know we will get everyone’s best shot so it makes us play with a chip on our shoulder.”
Fellow seniors, wide receiver/defensive back A.J. Coplon and linebacker Andrew Ramirez both echo the sentiments of their head coach.
“It’s really about the same to me,” Coplon said. “I honestly don’t think it has really hit me yet, but we are happy that our season got us back to this point to have a chance at winning it all again.”
Coplon and Ramirez have been leaders all season for the Rams. Coplon has emerged as one of the most explosive athletes in the area and most lethal defensive back and punt return weapon, while Ramirez is the team’s leader in tackling.
“We may have a little more pressure on us this year to protect our title but we are ready for the challenge,” Ramirez said. “We’re going to go out there Saturday and live up to Havelock expectations and give our all.”