NANIH WAIYA, Miss. Nanih Waiya’s senior class was just freshmen the last time they faced Lumberton, but all of them remember that game vividly.
It was the 2016 South State title game, a back and forth battle all game long that ended with the Warriors losing 50-48 in overtime.
“The only kid that probably played was Shia (Moore) as a ninth grader,” head coach James Courtney said. “All the kids were there though. They had brothers, a lot of them playing, or cousins on the team and they remember the heartbreak of it.”
One of those players was wide receiver Tylan Glass whose older brother Taemaus was a junior running back on the team.
“It was heartbreaking because he worked so hard and put forth so much effort into the season and to fall short like that was very sad,” Glass said. “After that loss it kind of motivated us and pushed us to go harder.”
When asked what he remembers from the loss to Lumberton as a freshman, running back Shia Moore recalled the disappointment he felt.
“It brought me down. They told me not to get down but it (the loss) was tough,” Moore said. “With all the talent I figured we’d make it back and have better teams in the future the next couple years and we have. We’ve been pretty good.”
Pretty good? More like very good.
Since their 2016 loss to Lumberton, the Warriors have made it to the 1A state championship every season. They fell to Simmons by two points in 2017 but got their revenge on them last year, snapping the Panthers 54-game win streak while capturing their first state title in school history.
“We’ve always been known as a baseball school or a team just appearing in a state championship and never winning it,” Glass said. “But with that win, we finally reached it and jumped over the hump.”
It has been quite the journey for this group of seniors, and now the opportunity to win back-to-back state titles is right in their fingertips.
“It feels good to bring back history and win a title,” Moore said. “After everybody’s been talking about how we need one and we want one, we finally got one and are looking at another one.”
When asked about the potential of winning a second state championship in his second year as head coach, James Courtney said he hasn’t thought about it too much.
“I haven’t sat back and thought about it – haven’t really had time – but it’s crazy. It's very humbling to be honest with you," Courtney said. "My daddy coached for 30 something years and never coached in the state championship so I know how rare it is. I don’t know why God’s blessed me the way he has but it’s been a great ride so far and we look forward to playing in another one."