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Collins Hill earns respect with another strong season

SUWANEE — When you lose a game, as Collins Hill did, in the last moments of the contest, the emotions sometimes leave little room for reflection on the season that just concluded Friday night. However, each graduating senior of the Eagles echoed the same thing: Respect.

With a 2013 Region 7-AAAAAA Championship, an 11-2 record and a trip to the state quarterfinals, on the heels of the 2010 semifinal appearance, Collins Hill has shown that it just may be earning the respect it deserves.

“This is a resilient group,” coach Kevin Reach said after the game. “They had no quit in them and it showed in the way we played. We trailed to North (Gwinnett) and we came back to beat them. We trailed tonight and we came back. The picture we are trying to paint is that we are built for success year after year.”

For senior Rhyan England, the end of the season doesn’t change his feelings about his teammates.

“You hear it often, but we really became a family,” said England who has an offer from Georgia Southern and is reviewing his options for the next level. “We always feel that others are laughing at us and saying we aren’t good enough as the others in our region and every year we prove them wrong.”

England said that the Eagles win over North was the game that helped Collins Hill believe it could play with any team in the state.

If not for the McEachern comeback, cornerback and punt returner Dwayne Smith might be the star of the game. Smith returned a punt for a touchdown in the second half that gave the Eagles momentum that it almost carried to the finish.

Smith, also a senior, is a portrait of what makes the Eagles a success.

“I came here as a 125-pound ninth-grader,” The 5-foot-7 Smith said. “I worked really hard and got the best coaching in the state and this allowed me to do things I thought I would never have the opportunity to do. The coaches here are phenomenal and my teammates were just awesome. We do everything together.”

And while the 2013 edition of Collins Hill football has been closed, the players on the field Friday night were already talking about using the loss to motivate their off season workouts to get ready for 2014.