In the days leading up to the Virginia independent schools Division III state semifinals, Quantico Coach Ken Woodie noted that the Warriors' opponent, Blessed Sacrament Huguenot, kept its players for four years, whereas he often had players for four months. Students move on and off the military base every year.
The one glaring exception to that turnover has been Quantico senior Joe Fischer, the only four-year player that Woodie could recall from his eight years as coach.
Being around for so long made it difficult for Fischer to say goodbye Friday night, after his team lost 24-8 to two-time defending state champion Blessed Sacrament in the state semi.
The co-captain, who had played about every position for the Warriors, will no longer be the guy greeting the newcomers. He'll be the guy leaving.
"When I look back on it, I wouldn't want to play anywhere else," said Fischer, who has lived on the base since he was in sixth grade. "It's fun meeting new people. Work hard together, sweat together, cry together."
"Joe has been not only a physical presence and anchor, and an emotional presence and anchor, he has been an additional leader off the field within our . . . community," Woodie said. "We start with, 'Okay, we're going to play Joe here, and then we're going to see who we've got here and there.' What has he meant? Joe's a consistent performer. And having a consistent performer here, that's a rare thing. You can't replace Joe Fischer. We hope another kid maybe tries to follow in his footsteps."
Although Fischer's last game was not particularly memorable -- he threw three interceptions against Blessed Sacrament and took a 17-yard sack to sidetrack another drive -- he helped the Warriors go 8-2 after a 2-8 season last year.
Quantico trailed the more polished Knights by 17 before mounting a 64-yard drive, highlighted by a 43-yard scamper to the one-yard line by senior Terry Alexander. Senior Marty Noziglia scored both the touchdown and two-point conversion to pull the Warriors to within nine early in the fourth quarter.
Blessed Sacrament (10-2) then tacked on another touchdown, and the player who threw it, senior quarterback Tim Konvicka, picked off a pass in the end zone a few plays later. The Knights kept the ball for the final 4 minutes 13 seconds.
Blessed Sacrament will advance to face Isle of Wight, a 28-27 upset winner over top-seeded Roanoke Catholic, in the Division III state championship, the Knights' fourth straight title game appearance.
And Woodie will see who shows up for tryouts next August.
"Any time you go from 2-8 to 8-2, you have to be proud of the kids," he said, adding that a small group of players used to stand on the hill beside the school and chant "States!" after offseason workouts.
"Our goal this year was just to get back to the state playoffs, and we thought that was a pretty big goal for us."