When it comes to the 2021 classic rivalry game in Haywood — the Pisgah/Tuscola football clash — it’s likely the most memorable tidbit will be that it went as well as it did.
Just two days before the game, fans were beyond mad because it seemed that only 100 fans could attend.
At the last moment, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced eased COVID restrictions that allowed 2,100 fans to attend the County Clash.
This required a last-minute pivot that wasn’t easy.
Many deserve recognition for convincing government officials to find a common-sense solution. Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers, along with school administrators and leaders did most of the heavy lifting, but there were plenty of calls and emails from Haywood residents that helped.
The pressure undoubtedly resulted in the rule change happening in time for Haywood’s big game. The ability to score a high- profile win in Raleigh is certainly noteworthy and will hopefully spark a renewed faith that government can work for the people.
When it came making the last-minute change happen, much of the credit goes to to Pisgah Athletic Director Heidi Morgan.
Knowing that about 12,000 ardent fans could not attend, Morgan took the lead to figure out how to get the tickets in the hands of those who had the biggest stakes — families of those on the field and students.
While the school was under no obligation to share the limited tickets with its cross-county rival, Morgan worked with Tuscola Athletic Director Michael Belue to ensure fans and families for both teams to attend, something that was contrary to the “no away fans” conference policy.
It wasn’t just ticket distribution that fell into Morgan’s lap. There was organizing the pregame show, fielding questions from hundreds of concerned players, parents, school leaders and fans and address numerous changing plans.
As the local newspaper that covers county sports, we can attest to her patience and calmness as she fielded our inquiries.
This is Morgan’s first year as athletic director. She came into the role after Casey Kruk left the job to become principal at Canton Middle. Considering how well-respected Kruk is, it was clear Morgan would have big shoes to fill. Add to that a pandemic that scrambled the entire athletics department’s 2020-21 schedule, and it was clear she had a tall task. Now, it’s equally clear she’s met the challenge.
In past years, Pisgah has used the likes of helicopters and sky divers in pregame shows.
Morgan mentioned this year’s display may be relatively subdued. But the horse galloping across the field during the national anthem — on top of which sat a rider proudly wielding the American flag —along with the surprise fireworks show and the refreshing roar of the crowd may have just enabled those in the stands to forget about how weird life has been over the last year.
If you enjoyed the County Clash game and happen to see Heidi Morgan around, thank her. She deserves it.