Horses always champs in our hearts

Friday night’s Eastern Regional High School final didn’t turn out as we would have liked here in Clinton and Sampson County. Our hearts broke as the final seconds ticked off the overtime clock, with Bunn ahead of our beloved Dark Horses by one point.

The final 30-29 score came with some controversy and some bitter moments for a team who felt cheated out of a victory that was within their grasp. But as the dust settles and the heartbreak heals, one thing will remain clear: Clinton’s mighty Horses will remain champions in our hearts, whether they bring home the shiny gold trophies that designated them as such or not.

While everyone would have loved a win against Bunn and a chance at another trip to the final game, that was not to be. But it does not — and should not — diminish yet another great year for this group of young men and their coaches. It’s been a remarkable couple years for the Horses, one that comes with bragging rights that few high school football teams can boost — having made it to the Eastern Regionals two years in a row, and last year earning both a conference and regional championship.

As we said last year, those are remarkable feats by remarkable young men who have grown as individuals and as a team, feats in which each should take great pride. In other words, while there is always sting in defeat, our Horses should not carry a defeatist attitude. They should lift their heads high and carry themselves past the pain, understanding that one game, even a big game, should never be allowed to define them.

What does define them is their athleticism, their good sportsmanship and a determination to play hard each and every time they hit the field.

Their efforts this season have been praise-worthy, and all the Dark Horse fans out there should be singing those praises rather than talking about the outcome of one single game. After all, it’s what these young men deserve.

We applaud each of the players and their coaches for representing Clinton and Sampson County in grand fashion, for not only being good winners but for being good sports even on a night when it would have been far easier to have been far less.

While critics often say that no one remembers No. 2, we disagree profoundly.

Being among the best high school football teams in the state is nothing to ignore, and Clinton is. And even after the dust settled on the Eastern Regional game last Friday night, our Dark Horse team was still being talked about in a positive manner by more than just Sampsonians. No doubt it will continue to be.

To our mighty Horses, we applaud you for continuing to bring renewed life and enthusiasm to Clinton’s football program, for being good all-around young men on and off the field and for returning Clinton to the regional playoffs for the seventh time, yet another remarkable feat that speaks volumes.

Trophy or not, the Clinton Dark Horses are our champions and we couldn’t be prouder of them.