The whistle blew, and Parkland's Chase Rorie began tightening his gloves and adjusting his football helmet — he gave the face guard a tug, for good measure.
The front of his bright blue jersey looked almost navy, likely soaked with sweat and water on a humid Saturday evening at Deaton-Thompson Stadium. Rorie's hands moved to the sides of his white padded pants, as he readied for yet another defensive play.
Rorie, a rising senior who plays both wide receiver and cornerback, was back on his home field again for the Homer Thompson Pigskin Jamboree. The Mustangs played host to three teams — Asheboro, Mount Tabor and Charlotte Mallard Creek — in what was the sixth straight year of the event.
High school football had once again kicked off in Winston-Salem. It was Rorie's final time playing in the jamboree, since beginning his stint on the Mustangs' varsity team in 2017.
But it also marks the start of a season in which he plans to appear against every opponent Parkland faces — a change from last year. Rorie was forced to sit out much of last season because of two ejections resulting from celebrations.
He missed seven games as the Mustangs finished 11-2 with a second-round appearance in the NCHSAA Class 3-AA playoffs. It was the program's best season since 2007 under Coach Martin Samek, who left the Mustangs in December for the same position at Rolesville. Laymarr Marshall was tapped as his replacement a month later.
Regardless, Rorie ended that season with 758 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns in just six games played. But he said missing those seven games was a teaching moment and he's taken that experience with him into his last year with the Mustangs.
He said that time spent on the sideline on the way to the team's postseason run helped him mature on the field.
"The (biggest takeaway) was to play humble," Rorie said, standing next to a chain link fence on the sideline of the field after Parkland finished its hour-long scrimmage against Asheboro. "Last year I had those few incidents that allowed me not to play, so now I'm just focused on staying humble and making a career again this year."
Rorie's first ejection came in just the second game of the season for Parkland, a 42-21 victory over Glenn on Aug. 24 in Kernersville. It happened in the first quarter off an 84-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Camian Shell, a sophomore at the time.
Rorie skipped into the end zone, which resulted in an unsportsmanlike penalty. He was ejected from that game, and said he missed the next two.
The next came on the Mustangs' home field. On Oct. 12, he was ejected in a 53-13 win against North Forsyth. Rorie said "he just wasn't thinking," as he scored a touchdown.
Just after receiving the penalty, he realized his stint on the field was over.
"Right after it happened, they told me that I was done for the season," Rorie said. "It affected me a lot — I was hurt. I went home, and I didn't talk to nobody.
"I stayed in my room forever. But it was all on me. It was my fault and I had to live with it."
Rorie was sidelined for the remainder of the season — another four games — as Parkland ended its playoff run with a 49-26 loss to Watauga on Nov. 23. Regardless, he was excited for the Mustangs' success.
And Marshall had a simple response for his return.
"I think he's one of the best skilled players in the county," Marshall said. "He's dangerous on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
"He's an integral part of our team, man. We're just glad to have him as part of what we do."
With the success Rorie saw last year in just a short time on the field, he's optimistic heading into the season.
"I know last year it was harder and I was younger," Rorie said. "This year, I'm older now. I've gotten much better than last year — faster and all that.
"It's just going up."