The Leesville Road Pride football team kicked off their second home game versus the East Wake Warriors on Friday, September 11. Although the game starts at 7:00 pm, the pre-game festivities began at 7:00 am when students arrive on campus.
The day of the game, many fans showed their school spirit by wearing green; anything from green shoes, socks, pants, pride shirts, and even head bands. The football players stood out wearing their formal attire, a tradition dating back to before Leesville even existed. Teachers show spirit by wearing their pride faculty shirts, while coaches rock their pride polos on game day.
Pregame ordeals are vitally important to the game itself. The rapidly growing Grill Team, with their slogan, “we pregame…hard,” always make sure that they start the night off right with some old fashion tailgating to get them hyped for the game. Players, on the other hand, have their own pre-game routines. Most players try to eat a healthy, carbohydrate loaded lunch. Nate Wooten, senior, said “I always try to eat at subway every Friday; it is healthy and keeps me feeling good for the rest of the day.” Other players, such as Thurston Cox, senior wide receiver, ventures home for lunch re-heating pounds of pasta to keep them going.
As the game gets closer, the team has its own pregame standards. Every player eats a team meal around three. The rituals range from sitting in the same team meal seat every week, to listening to music prior to the game. Ryan Mangum, junior, listens to the rock group Linkin Park to get himself in the zone, as Cox is more of a Lil’ Wayne kind of guy. Some players take alone time to get their mind right. “I lay on the locker room bench for a few minutes to clear my mind,” said Chris Hawthorne, senior kicker. Prayer drives the players as well. Hawthorne, joined by Josh Stanley, junior quarter back, Austin Barrios, junior, and other players attend Fellow Christian Athletes (FCA) meetings in the health class room each week before the game. Jerroid Doughty, senior wide receiver, takes it a bit more seriously by praying alone before every game, and pointing to the heavens at his mom who has past away. “I am sad she is not here in person, but I know she is always watching, each and every game,” said Doughty.
6:30 pm hit, and fans began to fill Hamilton Stadium. Suddenly the sea of green enters the stadium screaming chants as loudly as they can. Students and parents take their places on the bleachers ready for kickoff. Cheerleaders stretch and warm up with small cheers. Devyn Youmans, junior and a varsity cheer leading since freshman year, has been cheering since she was five years old and she loves every minute of it. She said before the game, “I am very energetic during the game; I love football and the atmosphere around it.” The weather was great, players are warming up, and the PAC club moms are selling merchandise; it was a great atmosphere for football.
Suddenly, the Loonies scream and we are underway. The pride receives the football first but starts off slow with a punt to East Wake. The defense steps up with a big stop on fourth and one for the Warriors. Shortly after, Austin Barrios breaks open a 16-yard run for a TD. The pride scores first making the score 7-0, and they never looked back. After more great defense, Leesville started the second quarter off right with a 20-yard TD run by Josh Stanley putting them ahead 14-0, but the pride did not hold back. Stanley then threw a strike to Thurston Cox for a 28-yard TD Pass with only seconds left in the half. The pride entered half time with a commanding 21-0 lead over East Wake.
At half time the band marched on the field performing for all the fans. Hungry spectators hit the snack bar as I caught up with Wes Suggs, the Leesville mascot. Suggs began his mascot career as the Chick-Fil-A cow. Suggs said, “I love cheering and dancing for the fans, but I am kind of hot.” The Lion outfit feels like a sauna during the game but Suggs sticks it out for the fans.
Fans return to their respective seats as the half time clock winds down. The third quarter begins with fans still screaming and with Leesville still dominating. Although the second half lacked offence for both teams, both would make up for it with their defense. With it seeming like Leesville’s offence never left the locker room the only way Leesville would score would be from Brandon Pittman’s, junior, 74 yard interception return for a Touchdown widening the home teams lead 28-0. The spectacular play put the pride out of reach, and deflated any chances for East Wake to make a come back.
The clock seems to never stop in the fourth quarter as Leesville never throws the ball once. The defense holds on to its shut out with an interception late in the game by Cox; his second of the game. Suddenly, fireworks lit up the night sky. A few mischievous Loonies set off the fireworks just as the interception occurred. The crowd went wild. Ever since the 2007 season when the first Loonies set off fireworks, they have been a tradition for football games. It is a great way to keep the fans cheering at the end of the games.
The pride lines up in the victory formation kneeling the ball to run out the clock; the final score being 28-0. Leesville improves its record to (4-0). With a great effort on both sides of the ball, the pride made big plays at key moments. Although not much of a challenge, it is good to see the Pride working hard. Even though the season is young the football team continues to get better, and is starting to look like the playoff teams the school has produced in the last three years.