Life's sports lessons and sport's life lessons intersected at Greyhound Field Friday night as the Newport Greyhounds hosted Marianna.
A victory over the Trojans secured a 26th consecutive playoff berth for the Greyhounds and with winless Marianna traveling from Lee County and a date with Southside looming, it would have been easy for Newport to overlook their opponent.
Senior night festivities were also included before pre-game as the Newport coaching staff dealt with the week wisely.
"We went back and treated it like a Week One scenario," Coach Jeromy Poole noted before the contest.
"We spent the week working a lot of guys and working on fundamentals and techniques. Hopefully we can get those extra guys a lot of work and maybe build some depth as we move into the playoffs."
Taking on a team which has scored only six points through eight weeks (now nine) of the season can cause coaches some worry as he prepares.
“My hat goes off to those kids from Marianna,” Poole explained, “its tough to show up every week when you’ve only got a handful of kids and the season hasn’t gone well but I think it says a lot that they will finish the season.”
Coach Poole and any worries of the Newport coaching staff were put to rest early as the Greyhounds built a 42-0 first half lead on their way to a 56-0 victory and another trip to the playoffs.
"We started the year with several goals," Poole explained, "getting to the playoffs was not enough for us this year. We wanted to host a playoff game for this community and we are almost there."
A victory over Southside would ensure the Hounds no worse than a three-seed from the 2-4A conference and a first round home playoff game. A Newport win and a victory by Heber Springs over Dollarway could send them in as the second-seed.
That was all set up by their taking care of business against the Trojans.
"We talk all the time to our kids about having to focus and concentrate. It is like I told them before the game that it wasn't going to necessarily be a great atmosphere but they can't worry about the things they can't control," Poole said.
"We just have to take care of the job at hand and we looked at everything as a business trip. It was a business meeting and we had to take care of business and then go on to the next week."
With a 56-point victory, it would seem tough to highlight one play especially a 1-yard touchdown run when you are leading 27-0 at the start of the second quarter.
But for the Greyhounds and their coaches, there was one play that signified this night.
A 1-yard plunge from senior Kenyon Evans on the first play of the second quarter provided the emotional spark that the workmanlike effort was missing.
Evans, has been found the past three seasons on the sidelines, cheering on his teammates and urging the Greyhound faithful to get behind the orange and black.
Friday night, instead of leading the cheers, the effervescent, humble, always smiling young man was the recipient of them as he was mobbed by his teammates in the end zone and again on the sidelines.
"It was great for Kenyon to be able to get in the end zone," Offensive Coordinator Don Harrison said following the game. "That was something that we wanted to do for that young man and the kids wanted to do for him."
Newport got on the scoreboard on their first possession of the game when Gunnar Bullard connected with Kristen Crite on a 9-yard scoring pass.
Following a McCabe Cordell interception return for a touchdown, which was wiped out by a Newport penalty, Carl Turner scored on a 1-yard run.
Bullard connected with Asante Shell on a 14-yard scoring pass to push the lead to 20-0.
On the ensuing possession, Newport's Markus Neal picked up a Marianna fumble and raced 15-yards for a score to give the Hounds a 27-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Following Evans' emotional touchdown and Crite's 2-point conversion carried the lead to 35-0, the Greyhounds extended their advantage to 42-0 behind a 20-yard run by Turner.
In the second half, Demetrius Nelson scored on a 13-yard fourth quarter run while Lorenzo Ollison followed on the next possession with an 11-yard scoring run of his own.
Reid Johnson was 6-7 on extra point attempts for the Hounds.
"Demetrius Nelson came in in the second half and had a great run for a touchdown. He performed really well and I was so happy for him. Lorenzo Ollison is a guy that for the last couple of weeks has been playing some scout team tailback and giving us a good look and I'm glad he got a touchdown there at the end. He made a great run. I'm so happy for those guys. The scout team does this all during the week and this week they got to play and I'm happy for them," Harrison noted.
Bullard led the Newport offense with 66 yards rushing on 3 carries. Turner had 9 carries for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns, Nelson had 48 yards and a score on 8 totes. Ollison rushed 4 times for 20 yards and a score, Deandre Elston had 1 carry for 19 yards, Crite carried 4 times for 18 yards. Cordell had 14 yards rushing on 2 carries, Denver Smith had 5 yards rushing on 2 carries while Evans had a 1-yard scoring run.
Bullard was 4-6 passing for 41 yards and 2 touchdowns while Cordell was 1-1 for 12 yards.
Shell hauled in 2 catches for 19 yards and a score while Markus Neal had 1 catch for 13 yards. Will Golden had a 12-yard catch and Crite had 1 for 9 yards and a touchdown.
Linebackers Stephen Neal and Khairan Stafford had 9 tackles each to lead the defense. Hunter Bowen and Shell each had 3 stops while Shufon Alcorn, Divante Armstrong, Tim Brown, Colton Willis and Dayton Addington had 2 tackles each. Cordell, Crite, Elston, Chris Grady, Johnson, Maurice Killingsworth, Patrick Woodruff and Golden each had 1 stop.
With a playoff berth locked up and the Trojans dispatched, the Greyhounds can fully turn their attention to the Southerners.
"We have a huge game next week. Southside is playing for a playoff seed as well and it could come down to them having to beat us to determine whether they get in or not," said Poole.
"It begins Sunday. We have to come in, get our minds right and prepare. I don't think it is going to be difficult to get our kids up for the game because they understand what is at stake and they did a good job of focusing on the fundamentals."
Harrison notes that the Greyhounds will be rewarded with a victory over Southside.
"We have Southside coming up. There are a lot of things going on but we are now 100 percent focused on Southside. Beating them guarantees us a playoff game right here and we need that so badly. We deserve that."
Harrison continued, "our kids deserve to have Week 11 here and we want them to have it. I think this town would be so excited to have a home playoff game and I think we would have a big turnout. We need it and the kids deserve it."
The Greyhounds will close out the 2012 regular season Friday night as they travel to Southside for a 7 p.m. kickoff.