I vividly recall sitting in the front row at Mountaineer Field on September 9, 2022. It was homecoming night, the last-ever for the Alleghany Mountaineers. There were a lot of “lasts” that night, in fact: last Mountaineer vs. Cougar rivalry game, last Brackman cup, last Mountaineer homecoming king and queen, and the last season in general where games were expected to be played on that field. I had made a custom shirt which read, “I was here for the first, now I’m here for the last,” sported my giant hand-made signs representing my nephews and sipped hot cocoa.
All around me, there seemed to be more focus on what would happen next year instead of what was happening in the football game right in front of us. Me? I just wanted to savor the flavor. I’d always lived with my grandmother’s voice in my head, constantly quoting Matthew 6:34. “Tomorrow will take of itself!” she’d say.
At the same time, I understood people’s concerns. Covington and Alleghany had been rivals for decades! They’d played 39, that night made 40, Brackman cup games and were archenemies before that. In the 90’s, there was a prank war that happened every year where each school tagged the other, usually with spray paint and toilet paper. Ok, there was reason to worry. But could it still work out for the better?
Enter Fall sports 2023. My first game as a sportswriter was a home game at Casey Field where the Alleghany Cougars played against Waynesboro Little Giants game on August 25th. After the coin toss, it was decided Alleghany would receive the ball. Finally, it was time for the opening kickoff. Waynesboro stepped up, booted it, and it was received by Purcel Turner on the 5-yard-line. The crowd watched in awe as #14 clutched tightly to the ball and ran in a 95-yard touchdown during the first play of the game. Purcel Turner had made history as the first-ever Alleghany Cougar to score a touchdown.
During halftime at that very game, history was made again when the color guard joined the band on the football field for the unveiling of the new school song: a culmination of school songs from the past, all blended together into one beautiful song. It certainly fit the situation perfectly.
Fast-forward to week 2 when the Varsity football team played at Casey Field against the Fort Defiance Indians. After the coin toss, the Cougars once again received the ball and once again, turned the opening kickoff into a touchdown after Hunter DePriest received the ball and ran it in for a 90-yard return. Fans were likely wondering if it would become a running theme (no pun intended) for the Varsity Cougar football team.
However, week 3 would end the streak and yet, there was history to be made for this young group of athletes. In week 4’s “Battle of the Borders” game against Greenbriar East, the opening kickoff was, well, interesting. One of the Spartans players, who initially appeared to be running to receive the ball, watched as the ball bounced in front of the goal line. Clearly believing it would be a touchback, the player walked away from the ball. That was when quick-thinking Rocklynn Phillips noticed the ball never crossed the goal line. Phillips acted fast and pounced on the ball, giving possession to Alleghany on the 1-yard-line. In the next play, they scored. The clock was at 11:58. It would be the fastest touchdown score all season apart from the opening kickoff returns which resulted in touchdowns. Finally, it can’t go unmentioned the Varsity football team made it all the way to the playoffs in their inaugural season and finished with an impressive 9-2 record.
However, the Alleghany Cougar football team wasn’t the only team making history! The same can be said of this year’s golf teams. Earlier in the season, the Virginian Review sat down with Coach Archie Lemon to discuss his vision for the team and how he hoped to grow golf in the area. That all started with some history-making from the gentlemen on the golf team.
“I’m coaching to give back to the game of golf and not only help AHS but grow junior golf in this area,” Head Coach Archie Lemon said earlier this season. “We had 23 kids come out for varsity golf this year which is just outstanding! Collectively, both schools combined never had that must interest in playing varsity golf. As a result, the Alleghany Cougars now have a roster of 12 on the varsity golf team and the school was able to create the first JV team!” Lemon, who saw a successful golf career and was the first-ever golf champion at Alleghany High School, sat with a huge smile on his face as he talked about his love for golf and his goals for the team.
The Varsity Golf team saw tremendous success this year, making it all the way to Regionals! “By creating opportunities for our junior golfers to learn, play and compete in junior golf, our JV and Varsity Teams will continue to improve. High school varsity golf should be the culmination of our junior golfer’s era. Not the beginning!” Lemon concluded.
Our male Cougars weren’t the only ones who saw success and made history. The Lady Cougars were equally impressive this Fall! To start, both volleyball teams turned in stellar performances this year and both teams made it to a championship game. While the Varsity Lady Cougars finished their season with an incredible 18-6 record, the JV Lady Cougars finished theirs 22-2.
Night after night, those girls showed up to take down one opponent after the next, playing seamlessly. Though the Varsity team didn’t advance after their loss to Glenvar, it could not take away from all they accomplished under the direction of Coach Leitch. It’ll be amazing to see how they come back and perform next year! Meanwhile, the JV Lady Cougars took their game all the way to the Three Rivers District title game where they conquered all and ran away with the trophy!
Last, but certainly not least, all of the cross-country teams made strides this year, particularly the Varsity Lady Cougars. Kiera Lowman and Macyn Cash were standouts all season, but each of the girls —and all the cross-country teams— ran their hearts out at every meet this year. Lowman dominated all season, but the entire team made it all the way to states and finished in 5th place. In the meantime, Lowman ran away with her second state championship title in a row, blowing her old record out of the water by about a minute and a half.
Whether it be football, golf, volleyball, or cross-country, all Alleghany Cougars sports teams made history this fall in their own way. They also showed everyone how easily they could work together, despite those who weren’t quite sure in the beginning. We congratulate all of them on their enormous successes and wish them nothing but the best in the future! Go Cougars!
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