10/08/04 — OPINION -- Kenan's 42 is for its past

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OPINION -- Kenan's 42 is for its past

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 8, 2004 1:57 PM

Each sports season, it's not uncommon to see players wearing T-shirts with different mottos. The idea is to promote team unity and share one common goal.

The James Kenan football team has taken that approach and expanded it to involve the communities of Warsaw, Magnolia and Kenansville. Every afternoon the players exit the locker room one by one wearing a black T-shirt with a gold Tiger paw on the front. On the back is the number 42 in gold.

It's not in memory of a fallen player, but a reminder to every James Kenan alumni, family and current player that it's been 42 years since the school has celebrated a championship of any sort on the regional or state level in football.

James Kenan won the Class A title in 1960 against Eastern School for the Deaf 13-12. The Tigers topped Warrenton 38-13 in the eastern regional A title game two years later.

Those trophies, tarnished with age and covered in light dust, sit in a glass case in the school lobby. They usually catch a visitor's eye and there isn't a day that doesn't pass when a current football player stops to gaze at them as well.

"That's too darn long," second-year James Kenan coach Kevin Motsinger said of the four decade-plus drought.

Motsinger held a "revival session" toward the end of last March with his team. They began discussing the season and some players presented ideas for T-shirts. Motsinger said not to worry about it because he had his own plan in place.

The players constantly asked Motsinger about his idea until the first day of practice. He pulled out the black T-shirts with the gold 42 on the back and the gold Tiger paw on the front.

"I told the kids that's a powerful statement when you think about all the men and boys who went through this school, and couldn't get it done," Motsinger said. "That's the thing that people miss out in sports and how special it is when you win any kind of championship.

"You need never to forget where you come from, but we need to get this program turned around and think about the level where we've been -- and that's playing for championships."

The team has proudly worn the T-shirt daily in practice and during the school day. Classmates have asked what the number signifies and most players respond that it's about family.

Motsinger jokingly admitted that some people accused him of starting a gang. The Tigers are a gang -- a band of football players fighting for one common goal. They don't get involved in drive-bys and their idea of eliminating an opponent is driving through them on the football field.

Instead of holding up four fingers on one hand and their helmet in the other to signify the start of the fourth quarter in each game, the players hold up a "4" and "2." So far, they have remained focused on their preseason goal.

James Kenan finished non-conference play 5-1 with its only loss coming against traditional 2-A power East Duplin. The Tigers average 309.7 yards offensively per game and have an arsenal of weapons -- too many to name in this space. They've outscored the opposition 166-54 and recorded two shutouts defensively.

However, Motsinger quickly points out the real season begins tonight.

The Tigers open Super Six 1-A Conference play at Lakewood.

"We're 0-0," Motsinger said. "We've done a lot of great things to this point. But what we do the next five weeks will tell the tale. We've got to play Tiger football."

It's time to take care of business.

Forty-two years is long enough.