Heritage coach Tim Hammontree put the humble sports editor on the spot in the aftermath of the Mountaineers’ victory over Gibbs two weeks ago.
Asked of the historical reference for last time Heritage had opened region play 2-0, Hammontree turned to said editor for the answer with keen deflection that let him not answer the inquiry.
Humble sports editor let him down, not knowing for certain the correct answer. But like many Mountaineer players, said word smith vowed to correct the mistake and do better the next time.
It took some figuring, reconstruction of the ever changing districts and regions employed by the TSSAA over time and dragging some of the massive bound volumes of The Daily Times past up and down the stairs from the vault where they are maintained.
To answer that original question, the year was 2000, and the Mountaineers finished 5-5, 3-3 in the region, missing the playoffs by a single game. Heritage also went 2-0 the year before in 1999, when those Mountaineers went 7-4, 4-2 and scared the feathers off of Dobyns-Bennett in the first round of the playoffs before taking a 23-21 loss. For reference, both years, Heritage lost the third region game.
But lest the question come up again Friday, humble sports editor kept digging for the historical footnote that would accompany a Mountaineer victory against Powell. Heritage last started its region football slate 3-0 in 1990 but had to vacate the opening victory for use of an ineligible player and finished 3-7 after winning on the scoreboard five times.
Prior to that, the 1987 team — the one that went 9-1 and was a point away from getting past Oak Ridge to reach the second round of the playoffs — dropped its first game to the now closed Rule High in Knoxville but swept its region slate, building off wins over WB, Carter and Doyle to shutout Bearden and Maryville, before closing out the season with wins over Sevier County and Farragut.
At various times, the use of such historical points has been questioned and treated as if writers were picking on the Mountaineers by mentioning them.
Context may be in the eye of the reader, but the intent of the chronicler is to illustrate. Just as a win streak can’t be appreciated in a vacuum of only one victory, a resurgence, like the one that’s been building during Hammontree’s tenure, merits the same treatment to provide the proof of improvement and the basis for asserting this group of Mountaineers is on the verge of something special.
The players on the 1999 team didn’t expect to be noted as the last Heritage team to do anything, and after Friday, they no longer will be.
Thanks to this team.
These Mountaineers have learned a bit more about how to work for success and how to be ready when called on by coach Hammontree.
It’s life lessons and a great example.
Even to humble sports editors.