EDEN, N.C. -- For the first time since 1991, the Morehead High School football team made it to the third round of the playoffs.
"I've known most of these gentlemen since they were young men playing against each other in the city leagues," said Lamont King, father of a senior running back. "Everyone had a feeling when this group got together -- it was going to be something great."
Parents, friends and teachers beamed with "Panther pride" Friday as they sent off the team on its way to Rocky Mount.
"I'm proud of who they are as young people, young men," said Jerry Boothe, whose nephew plays on the team. "I'm proud of the whole community. We're losing some jobs, we're going through a lot of things as a community. It's nice to be able to have something to take your mind off of it. These guys give us a little something to be proud of."
But that pride isn't just about football skill.
After Morehead defeated Havelock last week in the second round of playoffs, Morehead principal Al Royster said he received an email from a school resource officer at Havelock.
"I wanted to bring something to your attention about your students," the email reads. "What a wonderful bunch of kids you have... they all called me sir and answered my questions with a 'yes sir, no sir.' To be honest, we don't always get that!"
Parents said they would expect nothing less from the group of men they know so well.
"I'm not surprised at all," King said. "Honestly, it's what I expected."
"I'm very, very proud of them," said parent Todd Hale. "It made me emotional reading it."
Principal Royster said win or lose -- long after the students' football skills fade, those positive characteristics will get them far.
"They're going to have a life outside of high school football," Royster said. "So knowing that they made an impact -- I think it's going to live with them a long time."