LYNCHBURG, Va. - In 2017, the Pioneers' voyage to a state title fell just short, losing in the Class 3 final to Hopewell by just one score. Since that loss, Heritage started a new journey, to return to the championship game.
"I think that our kids remember that day. They remember everything about that day. They remember coming up short. They remember the ride home. They remember having to pick up the runner-up trophy rather than the regular trophy. But at the end of the day, they've had to earn their way here. So I'm very proud of them for that, but we still have unfinished business to do," said Heritage head coach Brad Bradley.
The Pioneers withstood a tough Lord Botetourt squad in the semifinals to earn their place back in the promised land. Quarterback Jabari Blake led the charge with 194 passing yards, and 122 yards rushing while accounting for five touchdowns in the 42-39 win.
"Jabari, he's been getting a lot stronger and a lot tougher and he's just a big guy. He just is going to help us out a lot," said wide receiver and defensive back Brian Trent.
Heritage's next challenge on its trek to a state title is Phoebus. The perennial power won five state championships in a six-year span, between 2006 and 2011.
"They're fast, they're athletic. They're strong, well-coached. So we definitely have a big task at hand but it should be that way in the state championship game. These are good football teams and it's the last game. And these seniors it's their last 48 minutes. We have a saying here: You have five days to prepare. You have 48 minutes to perform. You've got a lifetime to remember," said Bradley.
The road to the championship game led the Pioneers to a clash with the 13-1 Phantoms Saturday at Liberty University. On this expedition, the Pioneers don't plan on going home empty-handed.
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