Just one year ago, heading into their week ten matchup with Oak Hill, the Green Bobcats were being outscored by their SOC I opponents by a margin of 193-30 and were winless in those five matchups. Plagued by injury and a rough season, Bobcats head coach Ted Newsome had a decision to make.
“We had that meeting about this time last year with Mr. Emnett and the boys” said Newsome, “We met on a Tuesday morning, so I guess it would have been 364 days ago. We had to make the decision to not play our game that Friday.”
The Bobcats decision not to play Oak Hill automatically sealed the Oaks as conference champions after their head to head defeat of East earlier that season and gave Green a 1-9 record following a tumultuous season.
It is amazing how one season later can change the fate of a community, a school, and a football program. Earlier this week, Green announced their plans for their new school campus if the levy is passed on their ballot box this upcoming election cycle. All the while, the football team is making historic feats.
The Bobcats have an 8-1 record heading into their final matchup with wins over conference opponents East, Symmes Valley, Northwest, and Eastern with their only conference loss being to Notre Dame. Accompanying that 8-1 record is an almost certainty that Green will make their first postseason appearance since 1990, which coincidentally also happened to be the last time the Bobcats won the SOC.
“We watched some film and went over our scouting report today” said Newsome, “And we went around the room and talked to our players. One of their moms was 6 years old the last time that Green made the playoffs and won the league. One of our player’s dads was ten years old. One of our coaches was a year old since the last time. It’s really unprecedented. There’s not a lot of people here who are still in our community that were on that team or who were around then, so it’s really uncharted territory. It’s been twelve or thirteen years even since our last winning season. And now we’re on the cusp of possibly being league champions and hosting a playoff game. When you sit back and reflect, these boys have really accomplished quite a bit.”
Even for the players of the 2018 iteration of the Bobcats, this season has been a surreal experience. “Before the season, we had a team cookout at my house on the river bank” said Green quarterback Trevor Darnell, “We all gathered up as a team after we ate and Coach (Newsome) told us to name our goals. Everyone started saying ‘We want to win the SOC, we want to go to the playoffs” and Coach (Newsome) was talking about that the other day after the Northwest game, all those things are still there for us. And seeing those two things, right when everyone said that, I knew that this was our chance, and now we’re here.”
Senior lineman James Laber, a 4 year player for the Bobcats, reflected on how much different this season has been than his previous 3 as a player. “I’ve been on the team for 4 years, but we haven’t had the talent like we do now” said Laber, “Like Trevor (Darnell) said, we had the cookout and coach sat us down and asked us our goals. Even I said we could do it because we have the talent and we have the heart. I think we can do it, I think we can make the playoffs. Friday being the SOC championship, I’ve always dreamed of doing this in high school.”
Not only has there been encouragement from within the school, but community members have come to Newsome with their praise of what this season has meant to them. “This is an exciting time in Franklin Furnace” said Newsome, “We’ve got the ballot initiative for the new school and everyone is excited about that and everyone wants the best for our kids. We’ve had an exciting fall sports season already and we’ve gotten a lot of support already from a lot of different people, different alumni, and people who have contacted me. And even people from outside the community who we don’t even have connections with have contacted me and wished us well.”
“You go anywhere, no matter if they know who you are or don’t” said Darnell, “If they see we’re on the team, they tell us, ‘Good job on Friday with that win. Go get that next team’. We went up to Eastern last week and had just as many if not more fans than they did. Went to Northwest last Friday and we probably had the same number of people there as they did, which is crazy with it being their senior night. It was definitely something to be proud of.”
“It’s been great” said Laber, “My senior night, the last couple of home games, the stands have been packed. When we went to Notre Dame, even though we lost, we had the community there. When we went to Eastern and Northwest, we’ve had just as many fans as they’ve had. Hopefully we have just as many people as the past few weeks come up to Oak Hill, and I feel like we will.”
According to Joe Eitel’s unofficial playoff rankings, Green controls their own destiny for a playoff spot this Friday in their road trip to face their same conference opponent as the one they had to forfeit a season ago: Oak Hill.
If the Bobcats are able to defeat the Oaks, they will win the SOC I title, finish the season with a 9-1 record, and host a playoff game all for the first time since 1990. Defeating Oak Hill is no small task, however. The Oaks are the defending SOC I champions and are outscoring their SOC I opponents this season by a margin of 246-25 this season.
“We prepare for it the same way we do everything else” said Newsome in preparation for Friday night’s conference championship game, “We have to do some things better than we have before. They’re the best team we’ve played. I feel like we’re playing our best football right now, and we are healthy. I think we’ll be ready by Friday. I told the kids today that we can’t play the game today on Monday. We don’t have to be perfect today. We can have a great practice, but it’s Monday and we just have to execute in our initial phases of our preparation. We start to take another step on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we start to prime it a little bit better. On Thursday we should have things ready to go and so far this year, that’s been a good recipe for us. These guys understand that approach, they know you can’t play the game until it’s time to kick the game off.”
“It’s going to be a battle” said Darnell, “Everyone knows what happened last year. We couldn’t play them, so we had to forfeit. Everybody knows they’re going to try and get after us, we’re going to be fighting for the championship. It’s going to be a good, hard fought game.”
Laber echoed Darnell’s sentiment, “It’s going to be a dog fight. Tooth and nail. Whatever team wins, wins.”
Kickoff for the SOC I championship game between the Bobcats and the Oaks is slated for 7:00 p.m. this Friday night. With a win, the Bobcats guarantee their hosting of a playoff game for the first time in 28 years. Even in a loss, it is almost certain they will at least make the playoffs for the first time in that same time span.
As Green closed out their practice on Monday, they used one phrase to break down their huddle, “SOC”.