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Player of the Pine Belt: Sacred Heart RB/LB Nick Pipkins

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 11:31 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - In a little over two weeks, it will read Sacred Heart across the chest of Nick Pipkins and his Crusader teammates.

But at practice on Tuesday, Pipkins’ shirt reads ‘TEAM’ above a smaller inscription ‘ME.’

“Coach Ed [Smith], he always says, ‘We’re out here, we need to be closer together, more impact,’” said Pipkins, a Sacred Heart senior. “So, it’s a big ‘TEAM’ and a little ‘ME’ because the team’s bigger than yourself.”

One of 12 seniors among this group of Crusaders, Pipkins has quickly become a leader.

“He makes plays,” said third-year head coach Ed Smith. “He’s a guy that we count on to make plays for us on both sides of the ball. He’s a competitor. He loves playing the game but he’s really learning to harness that frustration and use it in a positive leadership type of way.”

Smith only has 26 players - one reason why Pipkins’ presence on the field is needed even more.

He’s gonna get his fair share of football this fall, lining up at both running back and linebacker.

“You just have to work harder and train more for it so you have more stamina,” Pipkins said. “It’s just tough playing both sides because you’re running the ball, then you’re trying to get the guy that’s running the ball. You just never get a break really.”

“Coach [Lonny] Schraeder says that it’s like a marathon and that’s right,” Smith said. “You talk about kids playing both sides of the ball, playing a lot of snaps. And when you get into that fourth quarter, they really have to find a way to reach down and call on something inside of ‘em to finish strong.”

Sacred Heart wasn’t afforded the chance to finish strong last year, getting only five games in due to COVID cancellations.

Going without a win the past two seasons, the Crusaders are starving to get back on the field and string some victories together.

“I really enjoy being around these kids,” Smith said. “We’ve got really good kids. They’ve worked hard, they’ve been through a lot. They’ve been through a lot of trials on and off the field.”

“It’s just a family out here,” Pipkins said. “You sweat together, you bleed together, you work hard together. The last two years we haven’t won a game. It’s been tough, it’s been heartbreaking cause we come out here and sweat - we don’t win a game. So I’m really hoping this year we go out, play our hardest and win as many games as we can.”

Sacred Heart opens its season on August 27 vs. St. Patrick. The Crusaders will play as an independent this year.

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