It will be easy to remember the Greyhounds
Written: Dec 15, 2008
(New Castle News photographer Erica Galvin traveled on the Wilmington football team’s bus to and from Hershey and filed this report following a pep rally at the school’s gymnasium late Saturday night).
It was a scene straight out of the movies.
Call it “Hoosiers” — New Wilmington style.
To say it was a hero’s welcome would be an understatement.
More then 10 firetrucks and emergency vehicles from around Lawrence County escorted the Wilmington High football team’s charter bus as it entered New Wilmington.
The bus briefly stopped to let the champions board the top of firetrucks so they could ride into town in style.
New Wilmington residents woke up to fire engine lights and sirens wailing at 11:30 p.m. As the heroes came into town, people of all ages came out of their homes in pajamas to wave. Senior captain Dallas Hartman proudly held up the championship trophy to all fans. Some of the elderly, who couldn't make it outside in time, peered out of their windows blinking their room lights and waving.
There were signs all over town congratulating the team. Someone even wrote "State Champs" in the snow on a hill leading into town.
Other fans opened champagne bottles and squirted the team as it went past.
The players soaked up the historical moment. Smiles went from ear to ear on every single one.
After driving through the streets of downtown New Wilmington, the parade of emergency vehicles drove to the high school, where they barely could pull into the school because of the massive number of fans waiting to welcome the champs home.
In the words of one of the seniors, “Holy Cow, is the whole entire town here?”
This was the moment team members waited for their whole lives. It was finally Wilmington’s day in the sun.
Fans surprised players by wearing shirts with the championship photo on it. Team members were asked by many fans to sign the shirts.
While waiting for the players’ dramatic entrance to the gymnasium, cheerleaders threw out Hershey kisses to fans as a “Greyhounds” chant roared.
In a standing-room-only gym, the team came out to a thunderous standing ovation.
Matt Wagner and Carson Sharbaugh carried the PIAA Class AA championship trophy out to the community.
Head coach Terry Verrelli was the first to speak following a three-minute ovation.
“This is truly an unbelievable moment. There's no question about that. These kids, I can’t believe it myself, how much effort and time they put into it. I think my proudest moment is the fact that these kids learned something when the season was over. I think playing together and playing with heart is what got them here,” Verrelli said.
After thanking the coaches, players and fans, Verrelli jokingly told the crowd he could stay and talk all night. He wanted to hand over the microphone, but the shy and humble players refused to speak at first.
That is, until a “captains” chant began to echo throughout the crowd.
Finally, senior captains, Dallas “Spike” Hartman, Carson Sharbaugh, Matt Wagner and Clint DeRosa spoke to the crowd.
Hartman was first to speak.
“You guys not only supported us when we were winning, but in the first half you guys kept us up, you guys kept us in it. And we want to thank you. Not only do we have the best fans and the best coaches, but now we have the best team in the state” Hartman said.
Sharbaugh said a quick thank you to everyone and handed over the microphone to Wagner.
Wagner tried to speak, but became overwhelmed with emotion.
After the crowd showed its support, the smile quickly returned to Wagner's face and he began to speak again.
“Everybody in the state doubted us, everybody, PCN, all those guys, we were supposed to be mercy-ruled by the third quarter, but looked what happened baby!” Wagner said.
DeRosa then took the mic and said his thank yous as well.
“Thanks to the fans. I speak for all the seniors when I say that playing at Wilmington has been an honor. When you look at all the other football leagues and teams all over the state, I guarantee you won’t find another place like this, it’s a bunch of good-hearted people. It’s a great team with a bunch of kids who show up every week, no matter what weather is. They go hard. They do their best. We don’t have the biggest kids or the fastest kids, but we definitely have the biggest heart and the most pride out of any school I’ve ever seen.”
Wilmington quarterback and safety Shane Wagner, who made the ankle tackle to help seal the victory, shyly took the microphone, said a fast thank you and passed it back to Verrelli.
As the rally wound down, the team took one final victory lap around the gym. The team huddled up one final time with the gold trophy.
After a 1-2-3 CHAMPS cheer. It was finished. The season finally came to a close.
Only one school from the PIAA Class AA can end its season with a win. And this year, it was Wilmington’s turn.
As the players look back years from now, they can take a page from the movie, “Remember the Titans.”
Life will hand them different struggles, but they can look back, smile, and always, always, “Remember the Greyhounds.”
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