It’s the scene that’s played out more than 200 times in the past four Friday nights.
One field, one recently completed game, two teams, two very different emotions, opposite directions for each team.
On one side is the jubilation of moving on to the next round of the playoffs, while the other team deals with the negative emotions associated with the abrupt end to the season as frustration mixed with sadness and the feeling of “what could have been” if things had gone differently.
Trinity Christian Academy was the team facing that Friday night on its one field. Peabody and Liberty dealt with the same thing before hopping on a bus for the long ride back home.
At TCA, head coach Blake Butler talked to his team about what the season meant as those on the outskirts of the huddle had to lean in to listen over the cheers coming from the gathering of celebrating players from Trezevant about 30 yards away.
“Yeah we want to win a gold ball, but if you walk away from here thinking the gold ball and state championships are what it’s all about, then you’ve missed the point of all this,” Butler said. “It’s also about the lessons you’ve learned from dealing with everything you have dealt with.
“It’s about the friendships you’ve made on this team where you’re like brothers who could be ready to fight each other one second then you’re ready to go fight someone else with your brother. These friendships will last a lot longer than celebrating any championship would.”
Butler talked about continuing to fight when everybody outside the program had doubted them, which probably happened after Sept. 11 when the Lions were 0-4.
“I thought we had the ability to turn things around, but you never know if it will happen until it actually does happen,” Butler said when asked if he thought the team would make it to the semifinals after the sluggish start to the season. “But these kids are resilient, and this senior group has really stepped up to become the leaders we needed them to be.”
The senior class that finished their playing careers at TCA have been through a lot with Butler. They were his second class he coached all through high school. They won two district championships, made two state semifinal appearances, finished runner-up another year in the district and posted the most drastic turnaround as a team in rural West Tennessee in 2015.
“They’ve accomplished so much when not a lot of people thought they would accomplish much of anything,” Butler said. “But that goes to show the work these guys put in to continue to try to raise that standard each year for the program.”
Not only did the team start 0-4, but they did so after losing a big senior class and the entire coaching staff from 2014 with the exception of Butler.
“I asked them to be committed to the program, and they did that,” Butler said. “Would we have liked to have had a happier ending to the season? Of course, but I’m proud of what this team did accomplish. I’m proud of them.”
Brandon Shields is the high school sports columnist for The Jackson Sun. Contact him at 425-9751 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at jacksonsunsports.