Unexpected emotion ended victorious Senior Night for Panther football

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By Sharon Graves

Lifetime memories were cemented Friday night for four cheerleaders, 10 band members and 14 football players – all seniors, participating in the last game of the season at Carroll County High School’s Panther Field.

Some of these students have lived their entire lives in Carroll County; some moved here with their families.

Their parents have supported them as students, athletes and performers, and all shed tears after the game against with Kentucky Country Day. A game that turned out to be a victory for the Panthers, by the way.

Senior year goes by really fast, and I doubt that any of these 28 seniors were prepared for how they would feel on the football field Friday. I’m sure they weren’t ready for the emotions that let loose when the game ended.

The cheerleaders and football players were introduced with their parents and they walked onto the field, filled

with senior pride. The senior band members and their parents took the field after the Band of Gold’s half-time performance.

Though the band had one more contest and the team one more game to play, nothing compares to the emotion of that last home game. It is palpable, especially to those of us who remember their own senior nights, and to those who think their senior night is still light years away.

Before the game, everyone was all smiles as I chatted with the four senior cheerleaders on the sidelines. One said she thought she might cry; another was ready for it all to be over.

Parents in the Panther Pit, the tailgating section, ate chili and talked about how this has been a really good year. They said they expected this would be a sad night, though.

It was a great game; perhaps it was “an ugly game,” as Coach Mike Weedman described it. But a win on senior night always has a distinct beauty.

First, senior Jeremy Bowen, who had been sidelined for two years with two torn ACLs, was able to get on the field on several series of plays.

And senior Josh Kates nailed every kick, making up for a disappointing game last week.

Senior quarterback Casey Cable had a great night offensively and defensively, and when a touchdown was absolutely necessary, senior Otis Winter powered his way over the goal line.  

It was perfect weather for football – clear and crisp, and not bitterly cold despite being the last day in October.

The cheerleaders were precise in their routines and kept the crowd in the game all night.

The band looked sharp in their beautiful uniforms; several onlookers remarked that the band sounded wonderful. They performed well on the field, and played their hearts out in the stands during the game.

And with the victory, Weedman got his first cooler of ice water thrown on him by his team.  

After the game, the team, coaches, parents and hardcore fans headed to the end zone for a game wrap-up, congratulatory remarks to those who earned them, and pep talk to get everyone on track for the next game.

And it was there that the emotion of the night took over for the players.

One young man, had tears streaming down his face as his listened to Weedman’s remarks. One by one, as they each realized it was their last night on “their field,” the other seniors also found tears flowing; parents cried as they embraced their sons, and no one wanted to leave the field.

Eventually, they began to drift toward the parking lot and the locker room.

One lone player went back to the 50-yard line as if trying to hold onto – just for a little longer – the exhilaration and memories made there. Three others followed his lead to the middle of the field, and they stood together, and seemed to contemplating the end of this chapter of their lives.

It brought to mind my own senior night as a member of the high school band in Mason, Ohio, as well as the senior nights I experienced as a mother of Panther basketball and baseball players. Tears flowed on this side of the camera as well.  

Sharon Graves is staff writer for The News-Democrat.