By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
NARROWS, Va. —
After being part of 18 straight losses, no one was happier to finally win a football game at Narrows than Austin Lively.
He wants that feeling more often in 2013.
“It felt pretty good,” Lively said. “I would like to feel more of it, be a little bit more successful this year.”
Lively is one of 13 seniors for the Green Wave, who will open their season on Aug. 30 by hosting Auburn, another struggling program that has lost 39 straight games, dating back to opening week in 2009.
The closest call during that stretch came against Narrows, a 20-14 loss to the Green Wave in 2010.
While Lively was asked about a variety of games on the 2013 schedule during a media function a few ago — such as games with rivals like Giles and Bland County — his thoughts always came back to the Eagles.
“I think we are more focused on playing Auburn first,” he said.
A right guard on offense and end on defense, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Lively expects experience to play a role in helping the Green Wave attain more success, and possibly even challenge for a Division 1 playoff berth for the first time since 2009.
“I think we have a real good chance,” Lively said. “We have a bunch of seniors coming back, we have been playing for four years and we should do pretty good this year.”
Narrows has changed up its schedule, eliminating James Monroe — which had been a rivalry game to start the season for many years — and adding small schools such as Auburn and Montcalm.
“It is going to be different this year,” Lively said. “We are playing a couple of teams more our size and I feel a lot better about the changes we have made this year.”
Part of the issue for the small school Green Wave is simply numbers. Narrows has had a significant enrollment drop in its school, and that will play a role in a sport like football where depth is a valuable commodity.
Until the population grows again, the Green Wave will have to deal with having lots of players on the field from the start to finish.
“We are doing more conditioning this year so we are not going to be as tired as we was last year, but it is not that bad,” Lively said.
“We are going to work harder and stick together as a team.”
Even in victory last season — a 34-9 win at Bland County — the Green Wave’s excitement was limited by an injury to quarterback Joe Hall, who had broken his collar bone in the preseason, returned to face the Bears, and was injured late in that game and never played again.
“It felt pretty good to win a game finally,” Lively said. “I think we was all excited and hyped up because we won and then we realized he ain’t going to come back again, but we tried to work through it.”
Keeping Hall healthy will be paramount to Narrows success this season, and Lively feels like the senior-dominated line that also includes classmates Jesse Perdue, Gage Munsey, Zach Fleeman and Jamie Scott, will be able to do just that.
“I think he is going to do a lot better, hopefully he stays healthy,” Lively said. “I think there is one person on the offensive line that is not a senior.”
While Auburn is up first, Lively does get excited for Giles, even though the larger Spartans have dominated the series over the last decade. Of course, as with most rivalry games, the records can be thrown out the window when they meet on the gridiron.
“It is pretty fun, it gets nervous-whacking sometimes, but you just have to work through it,” said Lively, a former student in Monroe County, who used to get to face former teammates when the Green Wave played James Monroe. “I liked playing people I went to school with, it was a lot of fun.”
What would be more fun is more wins. That is the plan.
“I hope we do, we should,” Lively said. “We have to stick together as a team and not individually, work hard.”
Much like Lively and the Green Wave have done, even through the tough times as his fourth and final season approaches at Narrows.
“It has been pretty good,” he said. “I like our coaching staff, they are all great. I have nothing to complain about.”