Stepping Up: A will to win

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The old adage goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Such is true oftentimes in playoffs for any sport. The will to win — that is, the will to put in the work before, during and after a game — is vital to a team’s success in do-or-die scenarios. It starts with an individual’s own drive, and culminates with the ability of the team’s leadership to piece it all together.

Two Washington teams will be in these do-or-die situations. The Pam Pack soccer team travels out to Bunn on Thursday for its third-round playoff game. It conquered Durham School of the Arts and Red Springs to reach this halfway point of its journey back to the state championship.

While the soccer team is deep into its postseason run, the football team has yet to earn a trip to the playoffs. It recovered from a 0-6 start to the season by starting off its 2-A Eastern Plains Conference slate with three wins in a row.

However, the Pam Pack stumbled in a lopsided 33-6 loss at North Johnston last Friday. A win there would have assured the boys at least a share of the league title, but now they must win in their regular-season finale at home against Southwest Edgecombe on Friday.

Both teams are squaring off against talented foes. Bunn is the No. 1 seed in the soccer playoffs, and seems to have grown since getting railroaded by the Pam Pack in last year’s postseason.

At 3-1 in league play, Southwest Edgecombe is tied with Washington and North Johnston for first in the conference. The Cougars have won three of their last four with their only slipup coming against North Johnston.

The football and soccer teams have both seen plenty of success. Of course, the bulk of this year’s soccer team made the trip to Raleigh to play for the state championship last year. A lot of the seniors on this year’s football team were on hand as sophomores when the Pam Pack competed for the 2014 state championship.

They both have plenty of talent, too. In soccer, seniors like Eric Ruiz, Ben McKeithan and Rob Zerniak have paved the way, while younger players like Victor Hernandez and Oscar Espinoza have stepped up in an impressive way.

On the gridiron, veterans in Matt Black and Sue Poe, among others, have been consistent leaders on offense. The defense is stacked with seniors that have made an impact over the years: Mark Halbert, Logan Little, Austin O’Neal and Rontavion Floyd, to name a few. Newer faces like Nazzir Hardy and quarterback Frederick Holscher have proven invaluable, too.

For both these teams, it’s going to come down to the intangibles like leadership. The soccer team has shown strong leadership time and again, and it will be vital when it hits the road for a playoff game for the first time since last year’s title game.

If the older players on the Pam Pack football team can follow suit and provide guidance, it may be the determining factor in Washington football earning the right to play again after Friday.