Whew, what a day

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Saturday was the eighth state championship team I have covered in Virginia or North Carolina. After I got back on Saturday night, I realized this is the first state championship I have covered in person in 15 years where the home team has won. The last time was the North Carolina 1A state softball championship, which was won by Currituck County High School in 1983.

The Franklin-Clintwood state championship game was probably the oddest I have been involved with. My day began on Saturday 5:30 a.m. (not bad considering the Franklin High School band left at 5:00 a.m.). I drove up to Franklin to pick up photographer Andrew Faison, and we were on our way.

We decided to take US 58 to Martinsville and then go north up US 220. While we were on US 220, we drove through Franklin County and were on Franklin Street in Salem.

At one point, I was disappointed that the Virginia High School League (VHSL) would not allow reporters on the field during the game, only photographers. In Salem, we passed a bank sign that said the temperature was 27 degrees. Andrew said, “I bet you’re not upset about not being on the field anymore.” He was right, although the press box at the stadium had no heat running and was probably about 45 degrees until a Salem police officer had the brains to turn the heat on after halftime.

It began to snow lightly in the fourth quarter, and the forecast was calling only for flurries. After the game and interviews were complete, Andrew uploaded his pictures and I wrote a short story for the website. We were done in less than an hour, but the snow was getting heavier. We decided to take US 460 back to Franklin. As we moved east, the snow got worse and was sticking to the highway.

With a phone relay going back and forth from us, the band, and band parents about how conditions were getting worse ahead, we crossed into Lynchburg where the bridges were a sheet of glass. The speed limit was posted at 65 MPH and as we approached several bad wrecks, it looked like people probably discounted the fact that bridges freeze over during snow storms. I didn’t drive over 40 MPH until we made it to the point where the snow was no longer sticking to the roads, somewhere east of Farmville. It was a nerve-racking few hours and worse with the fatigue factor.

We stopped in Crewe to eat dinner. That was when I proclaimed, “I have had enough caffeine today to kill an elephant,” while loading up on my third iced tea of the meal.

Along with way we had heard that a welcoming ceremony was being planned for when the Franklin bus pulled in, sometime around 9:30 or 10. We knew that would never be the time, since the football bus was about two hours behind us.

After a few more laughs, we made it back to Franklin, sometime around 9:45 p.m. I drove back home and finished writing. I was done about 11 p.m. It was a satisfying 17-hour and 30-minute day.

When I finally laid down my weary head, I thought about the technology on this trip and the last time I covered a winning state championship team. Saturday we had a laptop with wireless Internet, a digital camera, cell phones and text messaging. None of that, except maybe crude cell phones and cheap laptops with acoustic couplers, existed in 1993. After that, I thought to myself, “you think too much,” and went to sleep.

I felt like Franklin was going to win the game right from the beginning. The Broncos moved the ball at will right from the first offensive series, even though they were stopped by their own penalties and did not score on that first drive. It was apparent, though, that Clintwood had probably not seen a team as quick as Franklin all year. When it came to side to side plays along the line, Franklin had a huge advantage over the bigger Greenwave.

Franklin’s defense held Clintwood to just 43 yards rushing in the first half, forcing the Greenwave to go to the pass in the second half. Just like William Campbell the previous week, the plan did not work. Not only did Franklin pick off three passes, Clintwood had just 2 yards rushing on 10 carries in the second half.

Some additional stats from the game: Both teams only punted once during the contest. The Broncos had the ball for almost 11 more minutes than Clintwood. Franklin was 7-of-13 on 3rd down conversions, while Clintwood was just 2-of-6. Franklin ran the ball 56 times with Isaiah Hudson the workhorse with 29 carries for 145 yards.