This one will hurt for a while. The Charlotte varsity football team had its rival on the ropes in the first round of the MHSAA playoffs … a chance to avenge an early season loss and a rabid fan base ready to continue the celebration started earlier in the day.

Then the wheels came off in the second half. Eaton Rapids scored 28 third quarter points, turning a 14-7 halftime deficit into a 35-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Eaton Rapids eventually advanced to the district finals with a 49-21 win.

The loss was especially devastating for a senior class that helped reignite a passion for football in Charlotte. This year’s team was filled with seniors at most positions — they filled 18 of the 21 starting spots on this year’s team and led the way back to the playoffs.

“Any time a team plays it’s last game it is very difficult, especially for the seniors,” said first year head coach Jeff Finney. “As a coach it is difficult knowing that most of the seniors just played their last football game ever. I tried my best to give the senior class the thanks they deserve for what they have done for our program and me as a coach. I could not have asked for a better group of seniors as a first year coach.  They were a great group of leaders and taught our lower classmen what it takes to win.”

Maybe just as importantly as teaching the underclassmen was the excitement this year’s team brought the Charlotte community. This team inspired 60 students to travel two-hours on a bus to Adrian. It brought the excitement of homecoming back to the district with this year’s parade and inspired a community-wide tailgate before the playoffs. This team and this group of seniors are what bring community members closer together…something to rally around as one.

As for the program, Finney is confident in the lessons his younger players took from this year’s senior class.

“Our goal is to have success in our new league and do whatever it takes to win in the playoffs,” Finney said. “Hopefully our younger kids saw what it takes in the off-season to win in the fall. There is no doubt in my mind that the graduating seniors will still take pride in getting our younger players ready to go.  They are just that type of kids.”