The life of football coach can be filled with great joy and equally great frustration. Vance County High School Head Football Coach Wilbur Pender has seen both in the last three weeks. After winning the opening game of the season against Warren County, the Vipers were shut out by Roanoke Rapids but rebounded last Friday night with a 47 – 36 victory over Durham Riverside in what turns out to be the team’s first win over a 4A school. With quarterback Nazir Garrett dialing up 5 Touchdown passes and the ground game chewing up 200 years, the Vipers were looking forward to Friday night’s game against Northern Durham. Did we mention frustration? Yes, and that frustration is, of course, due to Covid. A Covid exposure will push the Northern Durham game back to a bye week and the following week’s game against Jordan has been cancelled.
“We can only control things we can control,” said coach Pender on Thursday’s SportsTalk with Trey Snide. While the coach might not be able to tackle Covid, he can be pleased with his team’s performance this past Friday night and he feels the Roanoke Rapids loss is what paved the way for the win over Riverside. “That loss helped focus the team,” Pender said. After an excellent week of practice Pender said the team was confident and executed the prepared game plan paving the way for the victory.
“I’m never going to say I’m satisfied. I’m always looking for improvement,” Pender said of his team. He doesn’t feel the team has hit its stride yet, particularly on defense. His defensive team is young with quite a few freshmen and those players are making freshmen mistakes. Pender says they need to work on tackling and creating more turnovers so his offense has more opportunities.
With Covid in the picture Pender says his biggest worry is that the team will have a fall off once they return to the field. “It’s like building a plane as you are flying it,” Pender said of the challenges of his first year coaching the Vipers. Hopefully, the remainder of the season will see more of the joy and less of the frustration once the Vipers are back on the field.