The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

June 6, 2014

Patriot Country out in full force to support team’s run at a state title

BECKLEY — Rounding the corner at the lone stoplight in Sophia, heading toward Coal City, sits a sign in the window of an auto parts store that reads simply, “This is Patriots Country.”

For Sophia, Crab Orchard, Coal City and the rest of the small communities that make up the bloodline of Independence High School, the same is true.  There are navy blue and crimson red roots that run deep throughout the hills and valleys of the coalfields.

Those roots were on display Friday afternoon at the same Sophia intersection. Dozens of people, representing many different generations, crowded the corners of the streets and sidewalks, just for a glimpse of Raleigh County school bus 1469, carrying a group of determined young baseball players to Charleston, in hopes of returning as champions.

As the Sophia City and Volunteer Fire Departments ushered the Patriots’ bus down the infamously spray-painted Independence Hill, sirens roared, echoing through the hollows, alerting the masses that the Patriots were coming.

When they arrived, the roars of the sirens were joined by the joyous bellow of the Independence faithful, shaking signs and wishing luck to a group of boys, carrying the hopes of an entire community on their shoulders.

It’s a moment 37 years in the making.

When Sophia High School and Stocco High School closed their doors in 1976, giving birth to Independence in 1977, it brought together two great and proud communities and creating one big family.

Since that moment, generations have run the hallowed halls — for years on bright orange carpet — of Independence, carrying with them a love and pride of school and community, and creating memories and lasting legacies of their own.

Tonight, at Appalachian Power Park, a moment will turn into a memory for a new generation of Patriots, who will perform on the biggest stage of them all — our state’s capital in front of the largest crowd they’ve likely seen.

It’s a moment those boys have been longing for since the day they first picked up a bat and ball.

It’s an instance that they have been preparing for since they first struck a ball off a tee in Sophia Little League.

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