SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - On a cold, mid-November afternoon, the New Hampstead Phoenix get to work on the practice field.
It may not seem a special occasion, but for this program it is. It’s the first time they’ve ever done it.
“It was kind of a shock to the basketball team. Usually we lose in the first round and then all the football players are back at basketball practice and it’s basketball season," laughs junior Sam Brown. "But right now it’s football time still.”
It is still football time after the Phoenix earned the first playoff win in program history, knocking off top seeded Starr’s Mill 21-10 last week. It’s a historic win for New Hampstead made even sweeter for this team by what they’ve gone through this season.
Just before the team’s third game, after a 2-0 start, head coach Michael Moore was reassigned to a different school for what Chatham County Schools called a personnel matter. Suddenly the team was thrown into disarray.
“When we found out we lost him, it hurt everybody to be honest," says junior Jurel Armstrong.
“People were not coming to practice,” Brown remembers. "They wasn’t giving forth the effort. None of that.”
Everything was left at the feet of offensive coordinator Thomas Tedder, now the Phoenix interim head coach. He credits the team leadership for keeping the season going and having the Phoenix now one of 16 teams left standing in Class AAAAA.
“It’s been a challenge. There’s been some days where it’s bad," Tedder says. "There’s been some good days. We’ve just basically kept this team nucleus together.”
It’s paid off with some school history and a chance for New Hampstead to keep practicing. Tedder says after everything they’ve dealt with this year, the Phoenix don’t believe their rise is finished yet.
“They know what the challenge is ahead and I think they’re excited about it," Tedder says. "We’re just going to go up there Friday night and see what happens.”
The Phoenix will try to make it two playoff wins Friday night at Stockbridge. The Tigers are 10-1 and the #2 seed out of Region 4.