Pop culture has long had a love affair with the underdog – the little engine that could. Rocky is an American folk hero, the Mighty Ducks went from Hollywood to the NHL, and every March, we root for teams like Davidson, Butler, Valparaiso and Gonzaga.
But we just had a local underdog story that didn’t get too much attention, and even got a snarky headline in this newspaper to boot. The Nation Ford boys’ lacrosse team was the lowest seeded team in the playoffs this year – the No. 16 seed. The Falcons not only won their first few games with relative ease, but made it all the way to the state championship game.
They also continued the streak of having at least one local team playing for either the boys’ or girls’ state championship the past seven years.
This run to the title game went basically unnoticed. When NaFo lost to Wando in the final game 19-9, it was derided as being a blowout. I think that’s quite unfair. Nation Ford ended its season with a 7-11 record, playing a very tough schedule that resulted in several losses to North Carolina teams and then they proceeded to beat a 12-2 Dorman team by four goals, a .500 JL Mann team by seven goals, and a 12-3 Blythewood team by two. Wando was 14-4 and didn’t lose a game to an in-state team.
There’s no shame in losing to a worthy champion.
It seems like there was an opportunity lost to tell the community about this unprecedented run to the state final by such a low-seeded team. A team that was beaten twice by Clover in the regular season, suffered several key injuries and was riddled by the flu, rebounded to not only make the postseason, but then took it to some of the top teams in the state, each being road games.
There was no classical music from the “Bad News Bears” playing in the background, no iconic commentary from Al Michaels asking if we believe in miracles, no resurrection of the late Jack Buck to tell us he can’t believe what he just saw. It was just a group of kids who worked hard throughout the year, practicing from 6:45 to 9 p.m. five days a week, who didn’t give up and believed they could win. It’s the type of success story of perseverance that captivates the masses.
For a small town, Fort Mill has some interesting stories to tell. We have a Fort Mill native in the NFL and local resident Brandon Beane was just named the new general manager of the Buffalo Bills. As a new high school gets ready to open in the not too distant future, there will no doubt be even more success in the classrooms, in the band room, and on the athletic field. At some point, we won’t be the underdog, but the favorite that other teams won’t look forward to facing.
So we should root for the underdog while we can. To sum up the Nation Ford effort against Wando as a blowout ignores the effort it took to get there and I’m fairly certain Dorman, JL Mann and Blythewood would have traded places in an instant to suffer such a loss.
Scott Cost: firstname.lastname@example.org