HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- For the fifth time in six years, Highland Springs High School is in the Class 5 State Semifinals. The Springers have been talking about returning to this position since their loss in the Region 5B semifinals to Varina in November 2019.
"Wanting to get to this point and getting to this point is two different things," Head Coach Loren Johnson said. "You can talk about it. You put the plan in place. Once you put the plan in place, now you got to go out and execute the plan. Nothing we do at Highland Springs High School is a microwave dinner, everything is a Thanksgiving dinner. It's a process, it takes time."
Highland Springs received the Region 5B trophy earlier this week at practice after its game against Manchester was ruled a no-contest due to COVID protocols within the Lancers program.
It wasn't the way the Springers wanted to advance, and it didn't take long for Johnson and the Springers to realize they are two wins away from a State Championship.
"I think it sunk in long before yesterday, long before receiving the trophy," Coach Johnson explained. "It sunk in when we found out from the region that we would not be playing against Manchester. We knew what was at stake. We knew the task that was in front of us."
After the decision to make the Region 5B Final a no-contest, Coach Johnson and Manchester Head Coach Tom Hall spoke about how disappointing it was to not play against each other.
Johnson has since taken the approach of playing the rest of these playoffs for all of those teams in this region.
"Playing football in the Central Region, where we feel like the premier teams are in the region, we want to make sure that we leave a long, lasting impression on everyone we come in contact with," Coach Johnson said. "Not necessarily just in football, but our character. How we carry ourselves, everything beyond football."
Highland Springs will meet Maury, the defending Class 5 State Champions and this year's Region 5A champions, on Saturday. They met in the 2018 State Semifinals, won by the Springers 71-28. Much has changed from that game, with some exceptions.
"The programs are very similar," Coach Johnson said. "They're very similar to what they were then and we're very similar to what we were then. The teams are different though. There's no Tremayne Talbert. There's no Ke'Andre Lambert for them [Maury]. There're some different people on the field right now. You got to make due with what you have right now."