Hawks' first trip to state finals still satisfyingBy DOUG GORMAN
Sometimes the hardest job coaches have is addressing their team after a hard-fought loss. Kevin Prisant, however, is young enough to remember exactly what it’s like to be wearing the uniform.
Only a decade removed from his own playing days, Heritage School coach Kevin Prisant delivered a heartfelt speech Friday night just minutes after the Hawks team lost 27-19 to Deerfield-Windsor in the GISA Class AAA state title game.
After marching down to the Knights’ 15-yardline, quarterback Joe Bonner threw a pass in the direction of Candler Rich. Deerfield-Windsor Rh’ron McClain, who rushed for more than 260 yards on offese, broke up the pass in a battle between players who put up some big numbers.
“It’s going to be hard to take your pads off,” Prisant told his team “There is going to be a tomorrow, I promise you that.”
He might have been feeling his own pain despite wrapping up a remarkable 19-5 record during his first two seasons as a head coach. Prisant spent the week trying to down play the fact that his first time coaching in a state title contest was against his alma mater.
Before the game, Prisant stood with several of his own Deerfield teammates from the Albany school’s first football champions that were honored on that title winner’s 10-year anniversary. But he quickly got down to the business of trying to guide The Heritage School to its first in the program’s first trip to a state football championship game.
“To fight a team like we did, with players they have and a coaching staff like they have, says a lot. Our kids fought,” he said.”Gosh, they fought. I am so proud of them.”
Prisant coached the Hawks to their best season ever, helping the team to a 11-2 record, including Heritage’s first region football title.
Rich and Bonner were part of a senior class that has gradually turned the Hawks into a GISA playoff contender .
“There are just so many things you learn from being on the football field,” Bonner said “You learn how to handle adversity, and you build so many bonds from being out on the football field.”
Rich graduates as the team’s all-time leading rusher and the honor student is being recruited by both Yale and Harvard among others.
This year’s Heritage squad won its first eight games and then moved to the Friday night’s state title with three wins in a row.
Prisant made sure his team knew what they had accomplished despite the loss.
“Understand, there were only two teams, who were playing for the state championship at the end of the day,” he said.
The Hawks never led in the game, but stayed within strike distance with some big plays on both sides of the ball and on special teams, including Bonner’s 20-yard touchdown run and his TD pass to Rich.
Rich later had an 85-yard kickoff return for a second-half touchdown.
“We got beat by a better football team. Your effort was there all night long. There is no doubt about that,” Prisant said.
The Hawks season began with plenty of uncertainty as the team jumped to the Class AAA level, the highest classification in GISA.
After putting up 143 points against lower classification teams in the Hawks first three contest, Heritage set the tone for the playoff run with a 48-21 win against Southland in the team’s first game against a Class AAA opponent.
It then beat Mt. de Sales 36-22 and shutout Stratford Academy 35-0 to prove it belonged in GISA’s toughest division.
One of the hardest things Prisant had to do as many of the team’s players and fans were moved to tears was remind them what they had just accomplished.
“Of the millions of kids that have played high school football, few can say they ever strapped it on in a high school championship,” Prisant said.