OZARK, Ark. — This week, the Slim Chickens Team of the Week is headed to Ozark. The Hillbillies put together a season for the ages a year ago, making a run all the way to the semifinals. They set out to prove that they could go a step further this year, then came the curveball that is 2020.
”Really it’s been a crazy ride, unsure what was going to happen, even if we were going to be able to go back to school,” admits senior Harper Faulkenberry.
“It was a tough deal, but it all comes back to knowing that there’s still hope for it. We got really lucky that we could still play, and that’s an awesome feeling,” adds fellow senior Keystan Durning.
Once the season got started, it still wasn’t smooth sailing. The Hillbillies had to deal with last minute cancellations, long trips, and more non-conference adversity then this team is used to, says Faulkenberry.
“Kinda took everybody by surprise, but it was a pretty good slice of humble pie, because it was like hey, you guys can lose, and hey, you can talk the talk but at some point you have to walk the walk.”
Ozark rose to that challenge, walking the walk to a 5-1 conference slate and now back to back playoff wins. For the Hillbillies, it’s not about who’s lining up across from them. It’s about who they line up next to.
“We may not have the speed of other people, or there are things where other teams may have an edge, but we’re a team, we’re family. We call it up after every practice, family on three,” says Faulkenberry. Durning seconds the emotion.
“I’d do anything for them on or off the field, I love them a lot. It’s family, we’re all family, players and coaches. We’re all family, we’re all in this together.”
The senior class is looking for more than just three more wins. Durning says that the eldest Hillbillies want to leave a legacy in this town.
“It’s one of the most important things in my life. I want to go all the way. I want to look back one day knowing we won a state championship.”
For now, Ozark gets to enjoy a meal as the Slim Chickens Team of the Week. And when they get off that bus in Stuttgart Friday, the squad’s senior leaders know what they want to tell the team.
“Let them know that we come here for one thing only, and that’s to get the job done. And I need every one of them to play with the same confidence and heart that I do, because that’s what it’s going to take,” says Durning. Faulkenberry echoes the sentiment.
“Don’t let it be our last game ever. This week I say, let’s bring the house, and let’s show them what we can do, because when everyone’s playing together and you’ve got a strong team like this, anything can happen.”
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