LENOIR, N.C. — Hibriten High School is celebrating its first-ever state football title Monday in Lenoir.
The Hibriten Panthers bested East Duplin High School’s team 16-14 Saturday in North Carolina’s 2AA championship game.
A viewer sent Channel 9 a video showing fans lining the streets to welcome the team, which had a police escort, home.
On Monday afternoon, the Lenoir mayor and other local leaders visited the school to congratulate the new champions.
"Just to pull this community together, it's just a great thing and we're so excited to be a part of it," Mayor Bob Gibbons said.
The mayor told the students Monday he hopes to place a championship sign at the entrance to the city.
The players said the victory is even more important since a fellow student, Wesley Oliver, was killed in a wreck near the entrance of the school just two weeks ago.
The football players placed Wesley's initials on their helmets during their championship run.
"It was like part of us wanting to push for him,” linebacker Charles Tassinari said. “We had that pep rally for him and we know he liked football. And he wanted us to win and be successful."
"We thought of Wesley all the way through,” Principal David Colwell said. “One of the missions of this school was to win or for Wesley and to win it for Wesley's family."
The team inspired others to come together in Lenoir by their efforts both on and off the field.
"Everything was on my mind,” quarterback Jaylen Scott said. “I was jumping around. I really couldn't believe it. "
"I'd just like to thank our community and our fans for all their support throughout the whole season," defensive tackle Noah Haney said.
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