Cory Colder, left, raises one of the team's sledge hammers as he runs with the team onto the field before the Virginia AA Division 4 title game. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Ask any football coach, and they will tell you that programs are built upon traditions. The traditions and the programs often feed off each other, the strength of one building on the strength of the other. When Charlie Pierce started the varsity program at Briar Woods in 2006, he wanted to start a tradition.

Pierce bought two sledge hammers, one large and one small, and it was done. He gave his seniors the task of decorating the large hammer, but the open space on the smaller hammer has always been saved for signatures. Each week, the player awarded the hit of the game signs the smaller hammer. At the year-end banquet, the small hammer is given to the player who signed it the most. The large hammers are kept in what Pierce calls his “archive”. “It’s kind of like a trophy case in the team room,” said Pierce.

At the beginning of the season, Briar Woods running back Cory Colder, left, and a few other seniors got together and designed this year’s hammer.

They knew this year would be special. It was Briar Woods’s last time playing in Virginia AA Division 4. Next year they would face larger, tougher, and better schools at the 5A level in the state’s new system. Colder walked past the “archive” and saw the hammers from the previous two state championships. The seniors were looking for a three-peat. “Those things are so special and they don’t get any recognition,” said Colder. Colder made sure that changed and this season the seniors ran them out along with the school flag every game.

“That’s the first time anybody had [asked to do that],” said Pierce when Colder asked to take the hammers out. It was just what Pierce had hoped to start back in 2006. Before the Falcons took the field for the championship game, Pierce brought a few alumni up to the front in the locker room, success stories from the previous state championship teams. “They were there and I just brought them up as a foundation. Where we came from. And it ties in with the hammers,” said Pierce.

After defeating Heritage (Lynchburg, Va.) 52-0 for the state title, Colder hopes his new tradition will continue. They just need to find four seniors, instead of three, willing to carry the heavy hammers.

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