BYESVILLE — Building a football tradition takes a lot of time to establish, and the very beginning is always the hardest part.
For the past 17 years — COVID season aside, Vinton County had been absent from the playoffs and fell into a rut that seemed like it would never get out of.
“No one expected us to be here. People just figured ‘New coach, new system, but it’s the same old Vinton County. They’ll go 4-6 or 5-5 and that’s that’,” Vinton County coach T.J. Carper said. “But our kids will themselves to not fall into that same pattern. They wanted more, they wanted better and knew it wasn’t impossible to change the narrative.”
What followed was a 6-3 regular season, which was the most wins in a single season since 2004 and the chance to play in week 11.
The Vikings, however, got a small taste of what playoff football is like and what building a program is all about as they ended their season with a 64-34 loss to the Colts in a Division IV first round playoff game.
“Honestly, I hope we find a way to play them next season. I want them on the schedule,” Carper said. “I would love that. Only one way to get better, and that’s to play better teams and Meadowbrook fits the bill.”
Although it’s a bitter ending to one of the more sweet and successful seasons they have, the building blocks for a program aiming to turn the tide have officially been set.
“I remember talking to one of the coaches from Nelsonville-York after the game a few weeks ago and he mentioned that there was a time when they weren’t any good,” Carper said. “And for Meadowbrook, their first playoff appearance in school history was in 2015, which seems like a long time ago, but it’s only six years.
“It takes time to build a program and plug in a system that the kids follow suit within. Here’s that little piece of advice made me feel a little bit better, and it was a great season for us. There’s a lot of things we accomplished and we’ll get better because of it.”
The Vikings did themselves no favors with a series of short drives, punts and a turnover that turned into a touchdown.
Before they knew it, Meadowbrook was already ahead 28-0 with no stopping point in sight.
Although the game seemed well in hand at that point, the Vikings didn’t stop battling for the rest of the night.
They put the ball in the hands of seniors Zayne Karr and Broc Moore to help get them across the finish line down the stretch.
Karr matched the Colts touchdown-for-touchdown on the next four scoring drives before Moore tacked on the final one for the evening.
Moore finished with 26 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown, while Karr saved his best performance for his final one as a Viking.
He ended the night with 22 carries for 236 yards and four scores. Those 236 rushing gave him 1,350 yards on the ground for the season, which ultimately set a new Vinton County single season rushing record.
As Carper begin to talk about the impact Karr had on the season and program, the head coach couldn’t fight back the tears while talking about the standout back.
“I see a lot of me in him by the way he fights and overcame a lot of things in life period,” Carper said. “I’m going to miss him and all the seniors. He made my job so much easier. He’s the ultimate champion, plays with relentless effort no matter what. He went out fighting and he made his final game his best one.”
Despite this being the end for Karr, Moore and 11 other seniors, they can leave knowing that they had a part in restoring a sense of pride to Vinton County football.
“It’s emotional to see my very first class of seniors as head coach leave the program. Those guys are special, and I couldn’t be more proud of how they fought all season,” Carper said. “They won this season, not just because of what the scoreboard said, but because of how they carried themselves. Like champions.”