Heady times for Packers

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What’s better than a state championship in athletics? Two of them.

Four months after Coach Theotis Porter’s squad won Smithfield High School’s first-ever state championship in boys basketball, Coach Jason Henderson’s boys soccer team last week notched a state title of its own. It’s the first time in SHS’ 115-year history that the school has claimed a state championship in a team sport, much less two in the same academic year.

It’s no wonder Principal Bryan Thrift was feeling a little giddy last Wednesday night amid a throng of celebrating players, coaches and fans.

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“You’ve got to admit, right, the best part about tonight was having the fans in the stands to cheer the kids on,” Thrift told the Times’ Titus Mohler. “I’m getting chill bumps right now talking about it. This is really what high school athletics is about. It’s a community experience.”

A rare upside of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the Packers got to play the Virginia High School League Class 4 title game at home in front of more than 1,000 fans. Typically, state championships are played at neutral sites, but this year the higher-seeded team was declared the host.

And, boy, did the Smithfield community respond.

Some 1,250 total tickets were sold — more than were sold at any other championship semifinal or final across the state, according to SHS Athletic Director Matthew Moore.

Henderson, who has coached many of this year’s seniors since they were 10 years old, struggled for the appropriate words to describe the elation but summed it up well as “a big, big moment in Smithfield High School history.”

There’ve been a couple of those in 2021.

In February, the boys basketball team had to travel to Winchester to claim their state title. Not many Packer fans were able to make that four-hour trip, but when the team bus, escorted by Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke, arrived back on campus, the Packers were greeted by 100-plus fans who were honking horns and cheering.

“This was the welcome home you would expect from such a great community,” Thrift said at the time, not knowing that the school would make sports history again a few months later.