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Patriots hit historic highs in special football season

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By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

While Southern Alamance’s football season ended last week, discussion of this edition of the Patriots is far from complete.

That’s because this might qualify as the greatest season in school history – or at the very least, nearly a half-century.

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Southern won the Central 3-A Conference without a loss in six games and advanced through three rounds of the Class 3-A state playoffs.

When the season closed, there was a 12-2 record.

This didn’t come as a surprise to the Patriots, who were left wanting more.

“We honestly expected this,” senior running back Jackson Parrish says . “During spring weightlifting, summer, the preseason – we had those expectations, but I think a lot of other people didn’t.”

It didn’t just begin with running back Logan Foust powering and darting through opposing defenses and the Patriots delivering domination on defense.

It started with Fritz Hessenthaler as head coach and ended with Patriots rallying together amid a sudden coaching change during the first week of the state playoffs.
So much to digest, but the winning kept coming.

“We had a young team the last three years,” says senior Wesley Smith, a four-year starter on defense. “Now everybody has kind of grown into their shoes. A lot of talent.”

That worked out in such ways that there hadn’t been a Southern season like this since 1975 – and even then, the postseason format was different.

The Patriots appreciated the support, something that grew by the weeks. Along with that, they sensed naysayers.

It night have been a matter of style. For some, Southern wasn’t diverse enough offensively, sticking almost exclusively to a rushing attack. That was just one of the team’s attributes – and the Patriots rather enjoyed it.

“We’re different than anybody else,” acting coach Chris Miller says as Southern made its way through the postseason. “No one else is like us.”
That – in Mt. Hermon and Bellemont and Snow Camp and Saxapahaw and Village of Alamance – was a good thing.

“Our community is very excited for us and how good we’re doing,” junior defensive end Jake Witt says. “I feel like we’re also underrated and a lot of people who don’t believe in us and don’t think we’re that good. Everybody looks down on us, and I feel like we’re really stepping it up this year.

“They look at our offense. We don’t ever pass the ball. But we don’t need to. We’re putting points on the board just running the ball, why pass?”

Foust rushed for 2,077 yards and scored 31 touchdowns, Parrish gained 1,108 with 15 touchdowns, and Josiah Tysinger posted 645 yards with 12 touchdowns.

“The way our offense goes, the way we block and stay low,” tight end Chandler Clontz says. “And we have three excellent running backs – Jackson, Logan and Josiah – so it’s working pretty good.”

Those are just some numbers that came with this season to remember.
“We’re a tough team,” Smith says. “We set up a tough schedule to prepare us. I feel we’ve been up to the challenge all season.”

Pride for Patriots
There was plenty of bonding as the Patriots kept on believing.

“It’s a little bit of that motivation when people kind of talk you down,” Parrish says. “There’s a lot of people in the community talking us up. But otherwise, a lot of people outside our community who are talking us down. We put a lot of work into this.”

An assessment of the season isn’t complete without noting the four November games without Hessenthaler, who was suspended and then dismissed from his coaching position by the Alamance-Burlington School System for a personnel matter. This surfaced in a matter of a few days in the week following the end of the regular season.

Hessenthaler’s impact was present in the postseason, whether it was the coaching staff following through the system that got the Patriots that far or players without hesitation referring to his influence.

“Coach Fritz has always talked about buy-in and that’s what we really have done,” Parrish says. “I feel that’s where the success of this season has come from. Coach Fritz has always had these high expectations of our teams and I believe our team this year finally had those expectations of ourselves.”

That formula paid off.

“We just do what he teaches us – life lessons on the field and off,” Witt says during the postseason. “It’s different without him here. We’re just playing for him right now.”

The Patriots heard about teams at other schools practicing during Thanksgiving week in past years. This autumn, they experienced it.

“People that I’ve seen that have gone farther they’ve always talked about practicing on Thanksgiving,” Parrish says. “It’s a big deal. Being able to do that is rare.”

At the time, Southern was one of eight Class 3-A teams in the state still with a chance at securing a state championship.

It didn’t work out. The Patriots won’t be playing in December.

After a loss at Class 4-A Durham Jordan in the second week of the season, the Patriots won 11 games in a row until the 32-27 setback last Friday night at undefeated Fayetteville Seventy-First.

The glow from this 2023 season might shine much longer for Southern.

“To be at Southern Alamance and be this good where there really hasn’t been a team that has gone this far in recent times, it’s very exciting,” Smith says.

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