PURVIS, Miss. (WDAM) - Austin Swartz likes the idea of hewing to tradition, of making memories with lifelong comrades.
So, Swartz sounded a little torn when talking about his final year of football in his hometown, heading into his senior season at Purvis High School.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Swartz, who was selected Purvis’ “Player of the Pine Belt.” “We’ve been playing together since we were 7 or 8 (years old).
“It’s a tradition. You build friendships and relationships with guys your age, and when you walk around town, you see ‘em, and you get to talk about old times before you are old. It’s nice.”
One memory Swartz and the Tornadoes can do without was the residue remaining from a disappointing 2-8 season in 2018.
“We’ve been working,” Swartz said. “We ain’t going 2-8 again.
“It’s going to be a good year. We’ve all got grit and we’ve all been working hard.”
The offensive line is expected to be an asset, where the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Swartz and three other veterans return.
“I think our offensive line will be our strength this year,” second-year Purvis coach Brad Hankins said. “We’ll definitely have to run the ball to be successful. Having those guys in there makes all the difference in the world, having a little experience in there.”
Swartz said he’d have it no other way.
”I’m a bigger, heavier guy, and I like being in the trenches, Swartz said. “You don’t get the spotlight but you know you were the ones who helped make (everything) successful.”
Hankins said it’s a different world playing up front.
“Those offensive linemen, they’re a different breed,” Hankins said. “They’re going to get hit on every play. They’re not like the skill guys, who don’t necessarily get hit on every play like linemen do. You’ve got to be tough.
“It’s a grind down there. There’s a lot of things in the trenches that a lot of people don’t want to get close to.”
Swartz said Region 7-4A will be as tough as usual, but that he and the Tornadoes were looking forward to the challenge.
“Class 4A is one of the toughest (classifications) you can play in,” Swartz said. “It’s right there in the happy spot. You don’t have too many people playing. You can get a breather, but you’re still going to be fighting the same guy every play.
“The region is going to be tough. There’s a bunch of hard-nosed, downhill running teams we’re going to be playing in our region, but that’s OK because that’s the kind of team we are, too.”
The Tornadoes will open the 2019 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23, when they visit West Marion High School in Foxworth.