The COVID-19 pandemic shortened the Philip Simmons High School football team’s schedule and shrank the playoff field.
But there was much accomplished in the third season of Iron Horse varsity football. The team finished the regular season at .500, picked up, arguably, its biggest win in school history and made the playoffs.
But the most impressive accomplishment is that once the season started, nothing shut down because of the virus.
“It was great to be with this team and make it through the season,” said coach Eric Bendig, whose team dropped a 12-7 road decision to Pelion last Friday night in the first round of the Class AA playoffs. “It was nice to go through uninterrupted in a season of interruptions.”
It was the second straight loss by a touchdown or less for the Iron Horses, who finished with a 3-4 record including 3-1 in Region 6-AA play.
Unlike Philip Simmons, Pelion was rocked by the virus this fall.
The Panthers dropped the season-opener to Ridge Spring-Monetta, and it went downhill after that. Pelion went a month before playing Game No. 2 because the team was quarantined due to the virus.
The Iron Horse loss brought the final chapter in 15 seniors’ high school football careers. Twelve of the 15 have been with the program for four years and developed along the way.
“To see them grow up in front of you is hard to believe,” Bendig said. “To see them graduate in a few short months will be even harder to believe.
“We went to Pelion with a good point of attack,” Bendig said. “It just didn’t happen. You could see the seniors and you could see the finality of it in their eyes.”
The good news is the team in getting better and deeper, and next year is already being discussed in Bendig’s office. Both the offensive and defensive lines are returning in full, while a talented quarterback, Tripp Williams, will be back for his final season.
“Our quarterback came out injury free,” Bendig said of his 6-4 signal caller. “That’s something that didn’t happen when he was a freshman or sophomore. I like the way he’s progressed.”
Williams completed 14 of 25 passing for 93 yards as the Iron Horses managed only 142 yards in total offense against the Panthers. Williams accounted for the Iron Horses’ only TD on offense, hitting Jordan Jackson for a touchdown. Jackson played well in the secondary with an interception.
Running back Peyton Woolridge found the going tough, gaining 39 yards on 11 carries.
Senior Tyler Harper was credited with 14 tackles including eight solo stops to lead the defense. He had a tackle for a loss and a sack.
Junior Hunter Ramey tallied 11 tackles with seven solo stops.
Freshman Sharod Williams was in on 11 tackles, including 10 solo.
“We want to make some more memories,” Bendig said of 2021. “We want to win the region and make a longer playoff run, a couple more landmarks along the way.”