Saturday’s match-up against Hampton was more than just another football game – it was a contest filled with firsts and lasts.
The Rattlers’ 25-13 homecoming win over the Pirates marked the last home game of the 2002 regular season, the final game in Bragg Stadium for 20 seniors and the Rattler’s first victory over a team with a winning record.
It also marked the first game in which senior quarterback Casey Printers took every snap for the Rattlers.
Freshman fullback Paul Sharpe scored his first collegiate touchdown.
“I didn’t even want to give the ball back, that’s how excited I was,” Sharpe said.
Junior safety Levy Brown started for the first time since sustaining an injury to his rotator cuff, Oct. 5, and the Rattler defense played arguably their best game of the season.
Brown, who caught an interception in every game that he played in this season, was a little disappointed that he did not pull one in on Saturday.
“I was trying to keep the streak going, I missed a couple when I could have had it, but hey it wasn’t meant,” Brown said.
“I thank God for me being able to do what I’ve done anyway because it’s a blessing just to be out here.”
Head coach Billy Joe was impressed with the performance and leadership shown by the senior players in Saturday’s game and throughout the entire the week.
“Charlie Allen was hurt several times out there. I even told coach Jimmy to take him out and keep him out but he kept begging and begging and begging to get back in,” Joe said.
Allen who leads the team in receiving with 48 catches for 653 yards and six touchdowns, caught eight passes for 105 yards and one touchdown Saturday.
“It’s good to go out on a good note,” Allen said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Although the offense had a great game, the Rattler defense played a crucial role in Saturday’s victory.
“This is the best performance that our defensive unit has had thus far. Hopefully we will have something better in the remaining two games but the defense played extremely well,” Joe said.
Holding the Pirates scoreless until the fourth quarter, the Rattlers made it difficult for the Pirates on the ground and in the air.
“We knew going into the game that we really had to stop that run because we knew that’s what they’re all about is the run,” said sophomore defensive end Jeff Green.
Although head coach Billy Joe’s efforts to transport the team away from the homecoming hype failed (the team bus crashed into a GMC Suburban en route to Monticello Friday), the Rattlers still managed to keep their priorities in line.
“To deal with anything like homecoming you have to set goals and make sacrifices, and that’s what we did.
All week long coach Billy Joe has been stressing that issue, we got to make sacrifices,” Brown said.
“If we want to go to the playoffs we had to win this one and we got to win the next game too, so we got to keep making sacrifices.”