It is that time of year again; Friday night lights has returned. Students, teachers and parents eagerly anticipate returning to Henderson Stadium to cheer on the wolves. Wesleyan’s football program is a major aspect of school life every fall, not only for the players and coaches, but also for the fans. From the Kickoff Dinner, to the Homecoming game and everything in between, the Wolves never fail to show up to support the team.
The football team is once again led by longtime coach, Franklin Pridgen. For him, coaching is not just a typical job. “It’s a passion, it’s a calling, and it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my life. It blends my love of the game with my desire to have positive relationships with a chance to administer for Jesus,” said Pridgen. His love for coaching is demonstrated through the investment of both time and work, as he and all the other coaches start preparing during the winter prior to the season.
As for the players, preparation started the day after last year’s Honors day. They trained four days a week, usually Monday through Thursday, for three hours each day. Pridgen described the summer workouts as, “intense because they have to be. We all put a lot into them. The investment is really big for our coaches and players.” Not only did they do summer training, but the team also participated in 7 on 7 competitions and conducted two pre-season scrimmages. Although the investment is extensive, Pridgen adamantly said “the rewards are even greater.”
Physical preparation is certainly key, however, preparing mentally is just as important. Players must not think only individually, but also as a whole. Senior captain John Morris said, “One special thing about this team is the idea that we have kind of clung together this summer.” This unity will be very important in laying the ground work for a good season considering the obstacles the team will have to overcome. Morris said, “Everyone always talks about how the team graduated so many seniors, but I think this team has come together to overcome that and are ready to prove it to the community.” As a result of having smaller numbers, Pridgen said, “We have a lot of players that will be contributing in a major way really for the first time, and it’s really cool to see their devotion to who we are and their commitment to the long haul that is now being paid off.”
In addition to losing many seniors, Wesleyan has moved down a class to single A. When returning junior, George Bielan was asked if this would affect the team, he said, “It doesn’t matter, we are playing some of the same teams as years before and we are going to go out and play well regardless.”
Looking ahead at the 2016-2017 season, Morris said, “We set our goals early on a state championship and we are going to do whatever it takes to get there.”