A three-year playoff drought for the Owen High School football team is over.
The Warhorses finished the season with an overall record of 4-6 and a 3-2 mark in the Western Highlands Conference. The enter the N.C. High School Athletic Association state playoffs as a number 15 seed.
Owen will travel just under 200 miles to Reidsville to take on the number 2 seed Rams (11-0) in the opening round of the 2A playoffs. It will be the first postseason game for the Warhorses since a 2014 home loss to Mount Pleasant.
The program's return to the playoffs is "exciting," according to head coach Nathan Padgett.
"Making it to the playoffs was our goal at the beginning of the year," he said. "When you look at our seniors and all of the hard work and leadership they've put in, this is a really big accomplishment."
Owen finished 1-9 each of the last three seasons and were projected by some to finish last in the conference this season. With wins over Polk, Avery and Madison, the Warhorses ended the season in third place behind Mountain Heritage (5-0) and Mitchell (4-1).
"It's a big boost for our guys," Padgett said of qualifying for the postseason. "It shows that we we're really getting back to playing 'Owen football.'"
The playoff appearance is also the first as a head coach for Padgett, who replaced his own former coach Kenny Ford when he retired in 2015.
"I'm just really happy that I get to spend another week with these guys preparing for a playoff game," Padgett said. "This is something these guys haven't experienced so sharing this with them is pretty special."
The Warhorses will face the heavily favored Rams at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. Padgett, however, wants his players to worry about executing at their respective positions.
"We have to focus on us," Padgett said he told his team. "The only things we can control is how we prepare, practice and do our jobs. The rest will take care of itself."