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Satisfaction sets in for Weinstein, Patriots

Shaikey Hardy

Faith Christian School's Shaikey Hardy runs the ball during the Patriots win over Raleigh St. David's on Nov. 2.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Like a baseball card that hit circulation with a typo in the name, the 2017 Telegram Football Insider preview magazine was kept alive throughout the 2017 season as sort of a novel collector’s item.

There were no misspellings. Just a handful of wrong predictions.

Faith Christian football, entering its first season, was chosen by our three writers to go 0-9 across the board.

That looked silly after the Patriots won first their game, and, throughout the season, it became bulletin board material to an extent, but more so a running joke in the locker room.

“I just said guys, ‘They said we’re not going to win a game. We’re going to win some games. Can't’ tell you how many — but we will win some,’” coach Russell Weinstein said, laughing at the memory. “They did use it as motivation but really it was just pretty funny early on, it became an inside joke.”

The 2017 Patriots continued their winning throughout the season, finishing with a 6-4 record and a playoff berth, but the 0-9 predictions looked sufficiently sillier last Friday, when Faith Christian pulled off the upset of undefeated Raleigh St. David’s to win the 8-man NCISAA 2-A state title in the team’s second season.

After that game — a 24-20 victory won on a touchdown run by senior Sam Mills with three minutes left — Weinstein was “beside myself,” proud of his team and perhaps a little bit taken aback by the success of a program still in the early stages.

The Patriots took the weekend to soak in the victory with a cookout on Sunday, and on Tuesday, five days after the victory, Weinstein was able to put in words the uniquity of the situation.

For one thing, this was the longtime high school coach’s first state football title — he was part of Northern Nash’s runner-up team in 2002 and won two state track titles, one with the Knights and one with Salisbury.

“I’ve been awfully blessed. I’ve coached at some great schools with some great athletes with a lot of great coaches throughout my career,” said Weinstein, who, in 2018, was coaching his 35th year of prep football. “As far as where this ranks, I think for me, I think I got as much satisfaction this year in what we’ve accomplished and how much we improved going back to the very first year.

“It’s just a testament to the kids. Their focus and dedication. I asked a lot of them,” he continued. “They stepped up and did what was necessary. I never dreamed we’d win it in two years. The goal is always to win it every year, but to take this group this far in two seasons is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever experienced.”

While the big picture is impressive, the victory against St. David’s, a comeback from down 14-0 in the second half, stands by itself. The Warriors had scored at least 50 points in every game. Their closest victory entering the game was 35 points; they were 8-0, a total that included a 65-14 win against FCS in September.

The key was containing St. David’s running back Tai Goode, who had rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns in the two teams’ first meeting. In the championship, he was held to 43 yards and no touchdowns.

Beyond that, perhaps a little bit of complacency for the regular season’s clear-cut best team sunk the Warriors while helping the Patriots on their way to a first-ever state title.

“They beat us so easily the first time, it may have been a little bit tougher for their coach to motivate their kids because the victory was so easy for them,” Weinstein said. “Our kids were excited to play them again.”

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