For the first time in 2017, East Central head coach Seth Smith addressed his team following a loss.
The Hornets’ impressive ride came to an end in a 41-35 loss to Noxubee County in the Class 4A title game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Smith makes a habit of getting as fired up as his players following a big win, but he did his best to console a group of defected Hornets Saturday night. The majority of the players were in tears as the head coach spoke to his team in Ole Miss’ indoor practice facility.
“You’re going to cry because it hurts and this is the last time this group will ever be together,” Smith said. “You should cry. It hurts because it’s been an unbelievable ride. But remember, we got this far because the good Lord has given you a gift and you’ve used it. That’s why you’re here.
“You’re doing it at a place where people said you couldn’t. You’re doing it at a place that had won one playoff game in the history of the entire school. When I took this job people thought I was stupid because you can’t win here. But yes, you have won here. Look at what y’all have done.”
East Central suffered a tough break during Saturday’s loss with senior running back Tony Brown suffering a dislocated shoulder early in the second quarter to bring his impressive high school career to an end.
With Brown missing from the field, the East Central offense failed to get going late in the game as Noxubee County began to pick up steam on that side of the ball.
Smith wanted to make sure his players knew they had nothing to be ashamed of after the loss.
“Thirteen-and-one is an unbelievable year,” Smith said. “Obviously, you don’t want to lose the state championship. Whenever you sit down and start reflecting, you better smile. For me personally this is the most memorable time of my life ever. As long as we live, I won’t be able to tell you ‘Thank you’ enough. All I’ll do is give you the biggest neck hug you can get.”
Smith, who wraps up his fifth season as the East Central head coach, also wanted to thank the large contingent of fans who made the 5-hour trip from Hurley to Oxford on Saturday. About 5,000 Hornet fans were in attendance.
“What an honor to get to be a part of this,” Smith said. “It’s just really special. There’s no way if we live to 100 years old we can ever tell our community ‘thank you’ enough. From the Walk of Champions to The Grove, you get on the field and look up at all those people. It’s truly special to be a part of.”
Smith left his players with an upbeat message for their future.
“Take this with you the rest of your life,” he said. “Fight in life. Believe in life. Have confidence. There’s no way to dream too big. Whatever you want, go do it. God gives you that ability. He gives you that choice. Go do it.
“There ain’t even a close second in the history of this school to you.”