After more than four months of high expectations, grueling practices, singing songs and dominating the competition, the Manassas Park High School football team has put some closure on its 2004 season.
Just prior to being released for the holidays, the students, faculty and staff of Manassas Park High packed the school’s gym Wednesday for a last look back at the Cougar’s run at the state championship.
There were also a few odds and ends to care of, like unveiling the Group A state championship banner that will decorate the gym wall.
Zach Terrell, A.C. Fitchett and Bucky Griffith, who were named all-state players by the Associated Press were recognized during the ceremony. So were all-region selections Joe Greene and Robbie Mele. The team’s all-district players — Anthony VanKuren, Ellery Moore, Todd Smoot, Raphael Rigaud and Tony White — also stood up and were applauded during the pep rally.
One of the students doing the clapping was 15-year-old freshman Amy Slaubaugh.
“I’m proud they won,” Slaubaugh said. “They deserve all of this.”
Even after the laundry list of honors individual members of the team had racked up, there was still enough applause left in the students for head coach Jeff Lloyd.
“I call Coach Lloyd not only the best coach in the state, but also the nicest,” Athletic Director Mike Peters said before presenting the coach with a huge picture of Lloyd holding the state championship trophy.
The Cougars’ cheerleading squad was seated front and center in the gym, alongside the football team. The cheerleading team placed third in their state competition this year, and added a banner of its own to the gym walls by winning the Bull-Run District championship.
Members of the football team, cheerleading squad and school band each received a disc-full of memories from the season. Teachers and students at the school compiled over 300 pictures from the past few months, and burned 100 discs so that each of the participating students could have one.
The culmination of the pep rally was a highlight video that showed some of the more memorable plays from the season set to a soundtrack. Fittingly, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was playing at the end of the video, accompanying clips of the Cougars defeating Powell Valley in the state championship game. By the end, members of the team and the student body were singing along with the song, which was the team’s unofficial theme song this season.
Even after the song finished, the hoopla surrounding the season isn’t completely finished for the players. They still have to wait for the arrival of the state championship rings. The rings, which were designed by Peters and Lloyd, should arrive in six to eight weeks, Peters said. And they won’t cost the players a thing. The Manassas Park City Council and Mayor Frank Jones voted Tuesday night to cover the cost of the championship rings for the football team.
When the pep rally was over, most of the students bolted for the door and the freedom of the holiday break. Some of the football players, however, hung around to try their hands at a little freestyle percussion. Members of the band stood by and watched as a few of the players played the instruments they usually only heard from the field.
As a member of the drum line, 12-year-old Kiana Huff watched the football team from the stands all season, playing music to encourage them and cheering them on. Huff, a student at Manassas Park Middle School, watched for a moment as the football players banged away on the drums.
“They should stick to football,” she said with a smile.