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RALEIGH — A few days after collapsing on the sidelines, Brian Foster is back on his feet.
On Monday morning, the head coach of Southern Nash football team started his week peering out of the first-floor windows of Vaughn Towers that overlook North Carolina State University’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
In just five days, Foster and his Firebirds will take the field there at 3 p.m. against Charlotte Catholic in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A championship game, Southern Nash’s first appearance in the title clash.
But for now, Foster and the other 15 head coaches from around the state with a game left to be played in the 106th season of the NCHSAA gathered without headsets or playsheets for the association’s information session and media day.
The chance to play for a state championship will be a new journey for Foster and Southern Nash. As much as he’d like it to feel like any other week, at least some part of him knows it’s a moment to stop and enjoy a little.
“When you’ve done it for 30 years, you’re going to enjoy your moments,” Foster said donning a red tie, blue button-down shirt and navy blazer. “It’s just like Friday night. I hated so bad I didn’t get to finish and see what we did and how we did it. That was really disappointing. I’ve waited for a long time, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’re definitely going to enjoy it.”
Fainting on the sideline at the end of the third quarter, Foster didn’t get to see the final quarter of the Firebirds’ third-round matchup against Eastern Alamance. But his team closed out a victory against a program that had previously given it trouble.
After a few days of rest, Foster assured he’s feeling much better and he’s confident he’ll take the sidelines on Saturday to see through the end of a historic season, win or loss.
Foster plans to make the week as normal as possible. The team won’t change the schedule it has been on since the playoffs began, and he’s hoping to keep pep rallies and other activities that build the pressure of the game to a minimum.
Then again, Foster’s week did not start like normal. On a typical day, he doesn’t spend the morning listening to N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren and NCHSAA executive director Que Tucker speak from a podium, congratulating him and others who have made it to this point in the season. He doesn’t then spend the rest of the morning leading up to lunch time fulfilling interview requests, either. When you’re about to play for a state championship, though, that’s what you do.
After an hour for breakfast, sportswriters, coaches and other school officials gathered in the center of the room for a busy morning schedule. When it came time for coach introductions, it became clear many of the schools playing for a state title have been here plenty before.
Out of the 16 schools left alive, Foster is one of only four head coaches who will lead their teams into the first state championship game in program history.
To contrast that, Charlotte Catholic, has been to 11 state championship games and the team was successful in six of them, including just last year against Jacksonville at UNC’s Kenan Memorial Stadium. In the 2017 state 3-A final, the Cougars also beat a Havelock team that stopped Southern Nash in the third round.
But for head coach Mike Brodowicz, each year is different — and the past doesn’t guarantee you anything.
“It’s always special,” Brodowicz said. “With high school it’s a different group of kids, so to be back here is a completely different dynamic to the path we have taken. It’s always special to be back here to play a game.”
No matter how many times the schools have been here before, both schools have been given 1,000 pre-sale tickets that are $14 to purchase through the school. Tickets can also be bought on the NCHSAA’s website through GoFan, or at the gate for $15. Fans can also expect to pay $10 to park their vehicle for the game.