The audience may not have been the usual 400 attendees, but not for a second did the team spirit wane. On Sunday afternoon, athletes, students, and families socially distanced along the red and gold bleachers of the Rome High School gym as District Athletic Director and Head Coach, John Reid, kicked off the 2020 Football Banquet with heartfelt acknowledgments.
He began by expressing gratitude just to be able to get on the field and play, given that a lot of schools and teams haven’t been able to have that privilege this year. Reid gave a special shout out to the school board, Superintendent Louis Byars, RHS Principal Dr. Eric Holland, and Athletic Director, Jason Harris, for their support throughout the season. Last and by no means least, Reid thanked RHS parents for their role in the success of the season.
Despite setbacks like injuries and the impact of attempting to play the game they love during a pandemic, Reid said that the team never let any of it get the best of them.
“I could not be more proud of these football players, cheerleaders, managers, coaches, and all the people I’ve acknowledged for letting us try to make this normal,” he said to the crowd. “Not one time did we ever make it look like things were tough, and they were tough. We just kept trudging forward, making a plan, and kept our positive thinking going.”
The Wolves ended their season as 6-1 Co-Region Champs and 8-4 overall after making it to the second round of the State Playoffs.
All players were recognized by Reid and his coaching staff, from freshmen, seven of which received their first letter, to soon to be departing seniors, who left with a framed memento featuring their last name and read “Rome High Wolves Football 2020, Region Co-Champions, AAAAAA State Sweet Sixteen.” Fist bumps were exchanged down the line of coaches as the players accepted their awards.
The ceremony recognized team captains Bryant Wilkinson, Caleb Ellard, E.J. Lackey, and Omarion Peugh. Black Shirt awards were given within five categories: offense, defense, special teams, scout offense, and scout defense. Black Shirt award recipients were Martel Hight, Reece Fountain, Bryant Wilkinson, Bryson Hill, Fernando Lopez Romero, Grant Bullard, and Walker Norton.
Awards given for players exhibiting core values were separated into four areas and awarded as follows: Bryant Wilkinson (family), Tyler West and Steven White (trust), Guy Vilsaint and E.J. Lackey (toughness), and Caleb Ellard, Elijah Edwards, Alden Morgan, and Alec Morgan (integrity).
The Wolf award, also known as the coaches’ award, went to Walker Norton. The final award received for the day was a $1,000 scholarship, in honor of long-time supporters Phillip and Tammy Gaines, awarded to senior E.J. Lackey.
During the ceremony, Coach for the Varsity Competition Cheer Team, Jordan Keith, recognized the hard work of the JV and Varsity cheerleaders as well as the beloved mascot Willie! Students with roles as field managers were recognized as well.
“We set a high bar here,” Reid said as he closed the ceremony. “But each team has to find its own path, and for this team to do what it has done is just incredible. It shows the level that our program is on because it would have been easy for them to fall, and they never did, nor did the coaches. Co-region champs, second round of playoffs…not many teams can say that. We are just so excited about the future of this program.”