Paving the Way

Paving the Way
December 05
00:00 2014

Seniors reflect upon W-S Prep’s first season of football

(pictured above: (From left) Phillip Baity with Ryan Palmer and Jaland Tate.)

Phillip Baity, Ryan Palmer and Jaland Tate are departing seniors who have good feelings about the roles they played in Winston-Salem Prep’s first season of varsity football. The Phoenix, who finished 4-6, didn’t blow opponents away. Even so, there was a noteworthy turnaround which provides plenty of optimism for better things to come.

Prep started the season with four lop-sided losses. At that point, it was clear that the varsity level of competition wouldn’t be anything like the year before. That’s when Prep played a junior-varsity schedule and dominated with an 8-2 record.

The mood of the team was at a low level, and there were questions about what the rest of the season would be like. Baity, Palmer and Tate realized that they had a lot of work to do to keep their teammates encouraged. As things turned out, the three seniors were able to provide stability.

The end result was both satisfying and uplifting. The rejuvenated Phoenix won four of its final six games. They came very close to winning a fifth game, but fell short in a hotly-contested 22-16 loss to New Covenant in the regular season finale on Nov. 7.

“We kept fighting, even in those games we knew we couldn’t win because we were so far behind on the scoreboard,” said Baity, a 5-foot-8, 150-pounder who played running back and cornerback. “As seniors, it was our job to do the right things, to show the way, to set the right examples. Now that the younger players know what’s required, they can continue to build on the foundation that was set this year.”

After the fourth loss, Prep’s senior leadership faced its sternest test. How could they convince their teammates to keep pressing forward? What could they say to give them the confidence that they could not only compete, but win some ball games?

“The biggest challenge by far was to get everyone to stay committed,” said Tate, a 5-foot-9, 160 pound kick return specialist who started at running back and cornerback. “We kept emphasizing that even though we had lost some games, we still had a lot of opportunities to make things better than they had been. It was up to each individual to do all he could do to make the best of every opportunity.”

Palmer, a 6-foot-3,185-pound wide receiver/safety, missed a good portion of the season with a torn ligament in his left hand. But even during the six weeks that he was sidelined, Palmer still attended practices and tutored the younger receivers. He believes the experience that the Phoenix gained its first varsity season will pay off in the future.

“This was a building year,” said Palmer, who plans to attend Virginia Tech and play football as a freshman walk-on next fall. “When next season comes, Winston-Salem Prep will be in a better position to show what it’s capable of. There are football athletes in the building (school), just like there are for the basketball team (winners of three straight state championships).”

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