Champions In Our Book: JR Tucker’s Historic 2009 Football Season

The Tucker Tigers’ 2008 coach, Mac Leighton, had to step down from his position for doing something really stupid. There is no need to go into detail, but all hope of building upon the previous season disappeared. JRT hired a new coach, Matt Crenshaw, but we didn’t know what to expect of this team who had been through a lot, seeing their coach get put in jail and having their third head coach in as many years. Despite all that, for some reason, I was looking forward to this football season more than ever before. In late August, a week or two before the season started, you could feel football season in the air—that slight chill in the wind in the evening, the one that lets you know that Friday Night Lights are right around the corner.

Just over a week before opening night, the Richmond Times-Dispatch had a special section devoted to football: Professional, College, and High School. The title on the front page of the football section said in big letters, “WHO’S NEXT?” Last year, the University of Richmond Spiders had won the National Championship and the question was, who would be the next team to realize its title dreams? The “experts” predicted JR Tucker to finish fifth in the Colonial District (out of eight teams), once again in the bottom half of the district standings, above only Mills Godwin, John Marshall, and Thomas Jefferson.

Game 1-JR Tucker Tigers vs. Benedictine Cadets

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wells Stadium, JR Tucker High School

The game and season couldn’t have started much worse. First off, we were on our hill and some Benedictine students didn’t want us there since the hill is on the visitor’s side of the stadium. A police officer told us to leave the hill and go back to the home side. We were quite upset and we told the police officer that we had been on that hill for years. He made us leave temporarily. As we walked over to the home side, Benedictine scored a touchdown 11 seconds into the game. At halftime we took back the hill and it was ours for the rest of the season. The game was real close throughout, and Tucker had a chance to win the game with a few minutes left, and they fumbled the ball away and the Cadets ran out the clock and won 22-19. I stood there with Ethan and watched as the final seconds ticked off the clock and said “there goes our state championship,” thinking that it was going to be just another Tucker football season, with the team being mediocre at best. Even though we lost, I had a great time with my friends up on the hill. It was nice to see so many people again, and it is quite impossible to not have a great time when people such as that are all in attendance. The season was just beginning and it was going to be a good time regardless of how the football team performed.

Game 2-JR Tucker Tigers at (#8) Hanover Hawks

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hanover High School

I didn’t go to this game, as it was too far away and I didn’t know anyone else who was going. I wish I had gone though, because I checked the news that night for the score, and couldn’t believe it, in fact, I had to wait for the score to come around again just so I could be sure. It said “JR TUCKER 34 HANOVER 24 FINAL.” The Tigers were down 17-3 at halftime and came back to score 31 second half points and had pulled off what was called the “Upset of the Year (DigitalSports)” and beaten the eighth best team in the Central Region, the mighty Hanover Hawks, the 2008 Division 5 Central Region runner-ups. JR Tucker was now 1-1 but possibly the best 1-1 team in the region.

Game 3-JR Tucker Tigers at Henrico Warriors

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chapel Stadium, Henrico High School

I didn’t go to this game either, despite the big win the week before. The only reason I didn’t go was because again I didn’t know of anyone else who was going since it was an away game that was sort of a good distance away, although, just as what happened the previous week, if I knew what would happen, I would have been there at the game. JRT held on for a 20-17 win and was now 2-1 heading into Colonial District play.

Game 4-JR Tucker Tigers vs. Douglas Freeman Rebels

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wells Stadium, JR Tucker High School

I got a phone call, saying that CBS6 news was going to be at the game on Friday night, filming the highlights and interviewing players and coaches after game. Tucker was 2-1 and that was pretty big news, considering that if they beat Freeman, they would have as many wins already this season, as they had in their last two seasons combined. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said that this game, the Colonial District opener for both teams, had every reason to be a really good game, and it lived up to the hype. JRT was up 13-12 with just a few minutes left and all of us on the hill were getting really nervous. The Tigers drove down the field, and with just a few minutes left, scored a touchdown in the end zone right in front of us. Freeman would have one more chance to tie the game. They drove down the field and the Tigers’ defense stopped them a few yards short of the goal line to secure the victory. Besides the fact that it was a really exciting and entertaining game, I had a really good time with my friends up on the hill that night. After the final whistle and the clock expired, the teams shook hands in the middle of the field, and then we looked over to the home side of the stadium and saw people in the bleachers start moving down and going through the now-open fence and running onto the field. We heard everyone cheering and decided to join. The hill quickly emptied as we walked onto the field and then started running as soon as we were sure that the students and fans were there celebrating. Caitlynne and I ran together over to the giant mob of people, and Sarah wasn’t far behind. I found anyone I could to high-five or hug, and then I found Michele and Josh. Everyone was jumping up and down and cheering and doing the “#1” hand gesture, and some of the players were raising their helmets. Some people were even on other people’s shoulders, above the rest of the crowd. Everyone was cheering “Tuc-ker Ti-gers! (clap clap clap clap clap)” and there were smiles all around. Caitlynne and Sarah came over to me and I hugged them both and remembered that it was almost exactly a year since the Godwin game when Tucker finally won, and that the game may have been a real turning point. The coach then sat all the players down and got the fans to gather around. Some of us were right in the view of a television camera, although I never saw any video footage from that camera. Coach made sure everyone was quiet and then said, “How ‘bout them Tucker Tigers!” and we all cheered loudly again for a long time and then he said “let’s celebrate the win everyone!” and the mob began again. That’s all I could hear the coach say because of how loud it got. I found a few players I knew, Kyle Jones and Ryan Glascock, and congratulated them and told them I was proud of them and to keep up the good work. Shelby came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and then as I walked away I heard someone say “Dan!” I turned around and it was Sarah, Jasmine, and Michele, all celebrating the big win. I went over and hugged all three of them at once, then saw Katie and Josh jumping up and down and waving his arms around. It was a night I’ll never forget. I watched the news that night and they showed the highlights of the game, and had a live report from the now-empty stadium. The next day in the newspaper, at the top of the front page (not the headliner), it said “TUCKER OVER FREEMAN 20-12.” Tucker was 3-1 now, and was the biggest surprise in the region to this point. I wondered if they would be good enough to make it to the Times-Dispatch Top Ten. They didn’t quite make it this week, but they got a few votes for it.

Game 5-JR Tucker Tigers vs. Thomas Jefferson Vikings (Homecoming Game)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wells Stadium, JR Tucker High School

You never go into a game knowing full-well that you’re going to win, but when you’re playing against a perennial 0-10 team, a team who hasn’t won a game since 2007 (against none other than JR Tucker), you still have to be on your guard, because a team who has won only two games in the past 6 seasons, is much hungrier for a win than a team who is on a three-game win-streak and riding high. No trouble for the Tigers though, as they rolled 31-0 over the Vikings. I looked down the hill and thought I saw Hayley, a girl I hadn’t really seen much of since I graduated. I went over to the home side and there she was. It was the homecoming game, and lots of people were there, and I met Michael at this game. Michael was Sarah’s boyfriend (they married in 2011) and he was a really nice, really fun guy who turned out to be one of my best friends. Frankie and Shelby were there as well and it was a good night overall, plus, it was another win for the Tigers who were now 4-1. It was halfway through the season, and there was a new sense of hope in the air; a sense of destiny; a sense that this season would be one that people would talk about for years to come. The Tigers were on pace for eight wins, which hadn’t happened for them since the 1964. They hadn’t even made it to the playoffs since 1992, when they lost 39-3 at Thomas Dale. John Curle was the coach then, and they had gone into the playoffs as a wild card (John Marshall won the Colonial District that year). It was the only time they had gotten a single vote for #1 in the state, and the only time they had ever gone to the postseason.

A few days after the game, I checked the newspaper for the newest weekly ratings. For the first time since 1992, JR Tucker was in the T-D Top 10, listed as #10 in the area, although we had a better overall record than Dinwiddie and Thomas Dale, who were ranked higher. Meadowbrook and LC Bird, #1 and 2 in the region, were still unbeaten at 5-0. Hermitage, our next opponent, was #3.

Game 6-JR Tucker Tigers at #3 Hermitage Panthers (Cat Bowl)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chester Fritz Stadium, Hermitage High School

The Richmond Times-Dispatch said that the Tigers had made this game one to actually pay attention to. It was between the top two teams in the Colonial District, and the newly-ranked Tucker Tigers were in it to win. It was rainy and cold at the Cat Bowl, but the energy from the stands made it quite a bit more bearable. I met up with Max, Eric, Shelby, and Frankie at the game and we stood in the Tucker student section. At halftime, it was 7-6 in favor of Hermitage. The faith was alive and active. To be at Hermitage’s stadium, losing by only a point at halftime was something that very few teams had been able to do in recent past. This was a football program that had seen many NFL players (including Jamie Sharper who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, and his brother Darren Sharper who would win a Super Bowl with Drew Brees and the Saints in 2010) and had a great coach, Patrick Kane, who had brought them to the playoffs almost every year. There was more hope now than ever before. The game remained close through 30 minutes. It was a 14-12 game in favor of the Panthers until they scored two straight touchdowns to go ahead 27-12, heading into the fourth quarter. The teams traded touchdowns in the final period, and Hermitage came out with a 34-19, hard-earned win over a legit Tucker Tiger team. Even though we were now 4-2, we knew this game was going to be a major blow to any playoff chances. If we had won, we would have been in very good position to win our first-ever Colonial District title.

Game 7-JR Tucker Tigers at John Marshall Justices

Saturday, October 24, 2009

John Marshall High School

I didn’t go to this game, which was played on a Saturday afternoon because John Marshall doesn’t have stadium lights. I never really heard much about the game either, except that day when I talked to Kyle, the kicker, on Facebook, and he told me that they won 30-7. Tucker was back on the winning side, and now 5-2, and still ranked in the Central Region.

Game 8-JR Tucker Tigers vs. Mills Godwin Eagles (Short Pump Bowl)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wells Stadium, JR Tucker High School

Here it was, the rematch of the game in 2008 when Tucker broke an 18-game winning streak with 20 seconds left and us fans rushed the field in celebration. One reason I’ll always remember this rematch game in 2009 is because of the weather. It was a really weird night. There were storm clouds in the sky and they were really low, almost as if it was going to pour down rain or start thundering and lightning any minute, and it was foggy. A cloud settled right above the football field during the entire game, and it looked like a ghost was hovering over the field. I had never seen the stadium lights play against the fog the way they did on that night. This game was later called the “Ghost Bowl.” It made the entire stadium even brighter than it was. There was a constant light drizzle the whole night, but it was hardly cold outside, in fact it was so unseasonably warm that I wore shorts and my Tucker Tigers hoodie. Tucker was down 9-7 at halftime; they had allowed three field goals and scored a touchdown. The second half was a different story, however, as Tucker scored two touchdowns and shut out Godwin over the last two quarters, to win the annual Short Pump Bowl 21-9. They lifted the trophy in the middle of the field as the fans began to leave the stadium. It was the second time we had beaten Godwin in as many seasons, after being winless against the Eagles since 1992. Tucker was 6-2 and moved up to #8 in the area with two games left to play.

Game 9-JR Tucker Tigers vs. Patrick Henry Patriots

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wells Stadium, JR Tucker High School

Patrick Henry was another team that Tucker hadn’t defeated since 1992. For some reason, over those 17 years, Patrick Henry always seemed to have Tucker’s number; no matter how good or how bad a football team JRT was, PH always beat them easily. Coming into this game, the Patriots were 3-5. Tucker was a full three games ahead of them in the standings. Tonight was the last home game of the season and I made sure to get there early. I met up with Jessica, who was so cold that she ended up leaving the game early. My friends and I sat real close to each other and shared body-heat, and someone was kind enough to get hot chocolate for all of us. Shae had brought a blanket of some sort and it looked really comfortable. Despite the cold, I had more fun at this game than any game of the season to that point. Not as many of my friends were there, but sometimes that’s just the way to go; sometimes its just more fun with fewer people. I have no doubt that the freezing cold drove people away from coming out to the game. It was Senior Night: the Senior players were all honored in a pregame ceremony. It was their last home high school football game ever as a player under the lights at Wells Stadium, and the players knew they had to make this one count. The game would certainly live up to the hype; it was back and forth and we had a feeling that it would come down to the wire. There was a full moon out tonight, just as there had been during the Freeman game a month before. As Michele said earlier, “the crazies come out during a full moon.” Tucker took a 7-0 lead, then Patrick Henry tied it. JRT then took a 14-7 lead and PH tied it at 14. The Tigers went ahead 21-14 and the Patriots tied the game at 21. With 1:46 left in the fourth quarter, Patrick Henry scored a touchdown to take a 28-21 lead. Normally, in a Tucker football game that would be it: Game over, Tucker loses. This year though, we knew for sure that it wasn’t quite over just yet, and it wasn’t. The Patriots kicked it off and the Tigers ran it back 46 yards, to the Patrick Henry 34-yard line, and thus had great field position with about a minute and a half left to play. They drove down the field like champions and less than a minute after the touchdown that gave PH the lead, the game was tied at 28, thanks to a touchdown pass from Jered Bennett to James Bazemore. There was now life in the stadium again; every fan was standing at this point. With only 47.6 seconds left on the clock our fear now was that the Patriots would get a good run back during the kickoff and be in position to win the game with little or no time left. With three seconds left in the game, Patrick Henry attempted a 50-yard, potential game-winning field goal. The fans and the entire Colonial District held their breath. As time expired, the field goal fell well short of the field goal post, and was no good. We took a deep sigh of relief. It fell so short of the goal, in fact, that a JRT player caught it and started running for the opposite end zone, in attempt to score the winning touchdown with no time left in regulation. He was tackled, and the game was headed to overtime. I had never seen an overtime football game before. Win or lose, it was a great way to end the home season. My friends and I weren’t quite ready to leave that holy hill yet. We still wanted more football and we got it. The overtime extended the season, even if just by a few minutes. It had been too much fun to end now without a little extra magic. In high school, overtime is as follows: Each team gets the ball once, starting on the ten-yard line, and has four downs to score either a touchdown or a field goal. The team who has the ball second then has four downs from the ten-yard line to either tie or win, depending on how many points the first team scored on their possession. Tucker got the ball first in overtime, and lost three yards on their first two downs. It was third and 13, and JRT committed a 15-yard penalty to make it third down and 28 yards to go. Then the impossible happened. Quarterback Jered Bennett launched it high for Michael Mey, who was being covered by three Patriot players. Somehow, someway, Mike caught it in the end zone for a touchdown. All of us on the hill were going insane, and we heard the roar from the home side of the stadium when the ref put his arms up to signal a touchdown. The extra point was good and Tucker was up 35-28. Samantha thought the game was over and asked if we were going to charge the field again. I said the game wasn’t over yet, that PH still had a chance to tie it. The Patriots lined up for first down. If the Tigers could prevent them from scoring a touchdown in four downs, or intercept it or recover a fumble, the game would be over. The Patriots gained five yards in their first three downs, and it was fourth down with five yards to go. One more defensive stop by the Tigers, and they win it. I decided this time that instead of taking my digital camera out onto the field with me to record the celebration close-up, I would leave it on the hill, looking out over the whole field, to record the last play and the celebration if we were to end up winning. I pressed the Record button, set it on a flat area of the hill and moved over to the side to watch the final play. The ball was snapped, and the quarterback stepped back, looked for someone to pass to, and the Tucker defenders came after him, almost sacking him and ending the game. He managed to escape the sack, and passed it to the end zone. Michael Mey jumped in front of it and intercepted it and went to the ground and the game was over! Wells Stadium got louder than it had been in a long time, and so did our hill, sending us all into a frenzy. Looking over at the stadium, as soon as the ball was intercepted, we saw everyone who was standing, raise their arms in victory, and those who were sitting, stand up and do the same. We watched the final play take place and Billy and I both yelled “YES!!!!” “YEAH WE DID IT!!” as loud as I could, and then Caitlynne, Michele, Samantha, Sarah, Billy and I ran down the holy hill, through the fence, and onto the field to join the mosh pit that had been created by the players and fans who had gotten there before us. It was total euphoria. The band was playing the fight song and everyone was giving each other high-fives and hugs and pats on the back. I got to the mosh pit before any of my friends, and jumped right into it and found whoever I could, then came Michele and Sarah and Billy. Emily and Michael decided to stay back on the hill. We were all jumping up and down in joy and celebration. I found Ms Tierseron and Mr Strusky and gave them both a big hug. I heard a voice behind me saying, “Dan…Dan!” I turned around and it was Justin. He ran up to me and jumped into my arms. I had forgotten that he was even at the game that night. He told me later that he and Stephen were actually outside the stadium, behind the end zone, during overtime, and that as soon as it ended, they ran from there onto the field. A few minutes later, after everything had calmed down, I went back to the hill to get my camera, which had recorded the whole field frenzy. I left the hill for the last time that season, and went back down to the field where I talked to Mr Davenport, my assistant principal when I was a student there. He just said “one heck of a game, Dan.” It was Friday Night Lights at its very finest. I left the field and talked to Justin outside about how we were now 7-2 and going into the season finale against Deep Run, then I went to the parking lot and saw Sarah and Michele. We talked more about the game and we were informed that Godwin had pulled the upset against Deep Run, 24-16, after trailing 16-0 at halftime. John Carroll, the JR Tucker Activities Director, overheard us talking about that and he couldn’t have been more thrilled. We found out later that the Godwin students too, had stormed their field that night. I went on home, my nerves still racked. It was unreal, JRT was 7-2 and there was only one game left in the season. Tiger Pride was flying high.

The next morning in the newspaper, the big story was about how #6 Thomas Dale had upset #1 Meadowbrook 35-34, which turned the playoff picture upside down. Meadowbrook was the region’s top-ranked team, and because of their loss, that left LC Bird as the only unbeaten team left in the Central Region, and Meadowbrook, due to the quirky Virginia High School league (VHSL) playoff system, on the outside looking in, and put Thomas Dale in control of their own destiny.

Game 10- JR Tucker Tigers at Deep Run Wildcats

Monday, November 16, 2009

Deep Run High School

The game was originally to be played Friday the thirteenth. Heavy rain in the area on Thursday pushed the regular season finale to Monday. It was an away game and not many of my friends were there except Billy, Bridget, Ethan, Zach, and Stephen, yet tonight would be one of the most memorable games any of us had ever been to. This game will always be known as our “Super Bowl.” JRT was 7-2 and even if we won this game, we’d still be on the outside of the playoff picture, thanks to the unfair and unusual format. Before the game, I was talking to Eddie, a neighbor from down the street, and the dad of one of the football players. I told him that it’s a real shame we weren’t going to the playoffs. He simply said, “This IS our playoff game,” and he was right. This was the big one. Deep Run is Tucker’s biggest and most hated rival, and to be able to beat them in their house in the last game of the season, is what every player thought ahead to all season long. Playoffs or not, JRT wanted to beat Deep Run more than anything. And it showed. After one quarter it was scoreless, and then the Tigers erupted in the second quarter. Jered and Jacob both scored running touchdowns; the first on a one-yard run, then the second on a 33-yard run. Robinson then intercepted a Deep Run pass and ran it back 29 yards to make the score 21-0 in favor of Tucker at halftime. I was walking around our side of the stadium during the halftime festivities and I saw the JRT Principal, Mrs. Miller. I just said “isn’t this great?” and she said “Oh it’s [unbelievable]!” The cheerleaders continued their JR Tucker Tiger-themed cheers of “Hey all you Tiger fans, stand up and clap your hands! Now that you’ve got that beat, let me hear you stomp your feet!” and “Everybody do the Tiger Rumble, everybody do the Tiger Rumble, everybody! R-r-rumble!” and “What about, what about, what about our color shout? Orange! Orange! Orange! Orange! Blue Blue Blue Blue Blue!” and “J-R-T let’s gooo Tigers!” Even though it was only halftime, everyone in the stadium knew who was going to win this game. It was destiny. In the third quarter, Tucker allowed a Deep Run touchdown to keep the Wildcats within striking distance. The score was 21-7 heading into the fourth and final quarter of the game, and of the entire football season. Tucker was 12 minutes away from finally beating Deep Run for the first time since 2003, Deep Run’s first year in existence. The Wildcats were driving down the field, looking to score a touchdown and make it a one-possession game. Then 5’5 Montre Carr intercepted the pass and ran it back 44 yards to the end zone, and from the roar of the Tucker fans, it felt like an earthquake had just rocked our side of the stadium. All of us fans were cheering as loud as possible, and the players were jumping up and down on the bench, and the band began playing the fight song. We were all giving each other high-fives, hugs, pats on the back, chest bumps, and so on. It was absolute pandemonium, and one of the loudest sounds I had ever heard. Montre had just put the game away with the fifth interception of the game by JRT, and returned it for a touchdown, an exclamation point on the domination by the Tigers. Deep Run scored a late touchdown to make the final score 28-14. JR Tucker finished the season with 8 wins, and this was the biggest. The players went to shake hands with the Deep Run players, and then they came over to the stands. We went up to the fence and met them there and they high-fived and hugged everyone over the fence. Most fans stayed around a while after the game ended. No one wanted the night, nor the season, to end. Ethan, Zach and I had all graduated the year before and we were prouder than ever. My mom is a Tucker graduate and she was proud as could be; she and my dad had been to the last three games of this season. Billy, Stephen, and Bridget were all sophomores. I saw Suzan as I was leaving; she had to film the whole game, and it sure was a good one to get on camera. Afterwards, a few of us went back to JRT where there was going to be an after-party. Not many people ever showed up unfortunately. The stadium was lit up by the stadium lights. I walked in and looked up at the stands, and the field, and the Hill, all of which were depressingly quiet and empty. Just over a week before, that stadium had been louder than ever after Tucker beat Patrick Henry in overtime and we all stormed the field. Now it was just silent, as if all the happiness was gone. The celebration was just beginning though, and even though Tucker would not be playing in the postseason despite an 8-2 record, this night was one that fans will look back on and smile about for many years. Right before I left the stadium for the last time this season, I saw Ryan Glascock, a senior who had just played his last high school football game. I told him I couldn’t be more proud of him and the team, and that they were Champions in My Book, and he said that’s exactly what Coach Crenshaw told them in the locker room after the game, and rightfully so. The Tigers’ season would end without having a chance at the Division 6 State title, although a playoff wasn’t necessary to determine that these players were “Champions.”

Postseason

Because of the unusual VHSL playoff format, Meadowbrook (9-1), Varina (8-2), and JRT (8-2) were all left out off the postseason because they were in Division 6, while teams with worse records such as Hanover (7-3), Dinwiddie (6-4), and Petersburg (5-5) all made it to the Division 5 playoffs. The VHSL Divisions are based on enrollment; a Division 6 school has more students than a Division 5 school. In the Central Region, there are four playoff spots in both divisions. There are also four districts: The Capital, Central, Colonial, and Dominion. Each district champion gets an automatic playoff spot, and then there are four “wild card” playoff spots to fill the division playoffs. What happened this season was that all four district champions were in Division 6, so there were no wild card spots available in the Division 6 playoffs. Clover Hill, Hanover, Dinwiddie, and Petersburg were all wild card teams from Division 5. District standings go by district record (games against district opponents), not the overall record, which is why Thomas Dale (8-2) won the Central District over Meadowbrook (9-1). Highland Springs had defeated Varina in the regular season finale to claim the Capital District title, LC Bird ran away with the Dominion title, and Hermitage won the Colonial by one game over JR Tucker, which means that if we had won the Cat Bowl against Hermitage, we would have been in the playoffs instead of them. That is how close we were. And if Tucker was Division 5 instead of Division 6, we would have been the #1 seed in the Regional Playoffs, and would have had home field advantage until the state playoffs. For years, many fans have wished the playoffs could be expanded.

In the Division 5 Central Region Playoffs, #4 seed Petersburg upset #1 seed Clover Hill, 22-21 in overtime. #2 seed Hanover defeated #3 seed Dinwiddie 35-33. Hanover then defeated Petersburg 42-8 to claim the Division 5 Central Region Championship. Their next game was the Division 5 State Semifinals, where they lost to Phoebus, 10-7.

In the Division 6 playoffs, the unexpected happened. #4 seed Thomas Dale upset the #1 seed, undefeated LC Bird, 28-14, in the rematch of the “Battle of Chester,” an annual regular-season game between the two teams. #2 seed Hermitage defeated #3 seed Highland Springs 24-12. The next week, Thomas Dale upset the highly-favored Hermitage, 7-0, at Hermitage, to win the Division 6 Central Region Championship, and a spot in the Division 6 State Semifinal against the #1 team in the whole state of Virginia, Oscar Smith. The Knights of Thomas Dale scored the winning touchdown in overtime after a field goal by Oscar Smith, to pull the upset, 20-17, and advance to the Division 6 State Championship Game in Charlottesville against Lake Braddock. From what I found out, the game was televised in certain areas, and I didn’t get to watch it, although I couldn’t believe when I found out that Thomas Dale had won 35-21 to win the State Championship. It was the first time a school from the Central Region won the Division 6 championship. The coach, Vic Williams, had been there for 23 years, and was the coach there when the Knights beat my Tigers in JRT’s only playoff game in their history. Thomas Dale was 8-2 in the regular season, the same record as JR Tucker. The Tigers were left out of the playoffs, and the Knights won the whole thing.

In the end, as I told Ryan and Kyle after the Deep Run game, the Tigers played just as well as anyone else out there, and with the way they played in every game all season, they honestly could have beaten anyone. I am all in favor of playoffs to determine the best team, and I hope that one day, the Central Region will expand their playoffs to allow more teams, and also that they would tweak the format to not allow mediocrity over superiority. I also had an idea for a “bowl” system, where the top four teams to miss the playoffs, would all get to play one more game against a quality opponent. I would have loved for Tucker to get a postseason “bowl game” against Meadowbrook, the #1 team in the Central Region up to Week 9. We just wanted to see these Tigers play together one more time. No matter what, I had never been more proud of the Tucker Tigers. They put all their heart and soul into this football season and it paid off. It was a season that none of us fans will ever forget. The 2009 JR Tucker Tigers finished second in the Colonial District out of 8 teams, seventh in the Central Region out of 32 teams, 27th in Division 6 out of 62 teams (which was impressive, considering they were one of the smallest Division 6 schools), 40thin Group AAA (Divisions 5 and 6) out of 126 teams, and 47th in the State out of 304 teams. The most important statistic though, was how they finished in the fans’ eyes: Champions. This was a different Tucker Tiger team than anyone had ever seen. They believed in themselves even more than any of us did. They’ll never be forgotten and wherever any of them go, they will always have a home in Tiger Nation.

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