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First ever title shot

The feeling has finally sunk in for the Pike Liberal Arts faithful.

Their Patriots are playing for the state championship this Friday. This is not another regular season game, but the first ever state championship game the Patriots have been a part of.

“After the game it didn’t really sink in,” PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said. “To be the first team to make it there is exciting and I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet.”

Playing for a state title means a lot to the players, but this game also means a lot to the people coaching and supporting the Patriots.

“For a lot of people around the AISA and the state Pike has always been one of those schools that has been successful,” Kilcrease said. “If you went around and told everybody Pike has never won a championship they wouldn’t believe you.”

And all that starts with the man the field is named for.

“Back when coach (DeWight) Ward was here and several others they did it the right way,” Kilcrease said. “They have always been successful and always competed.”

He may be the coach who led the Patriots to the football promised land, but he won’t take all the credit for what this team has accomplished.

“I give a lot of my credit to coach Ward,” he said. “You can ask anyone who ever played under him, coach Ward was a second dad and I have the utmost respect for him. I know he is sitting over there just as proud, if not prouder than I am, that one of his players did that.

“I wouldn’t be here and this team wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for coach Ward and Mr. Kervin. And that is because I wouldn’t know the things I know. It is not just the Xs and Os, but how to carry yourself as well.”

If Kilcrease will not talk about his success, his boss will.

“I give all the credit to coach Kilcrease and his coaching staff for all the leadership and sense of duty they have taught these players,” PLAS headmaster Ceil Sikes said. “They set the bar high for these boys and they set such great examples for them to follow.”

Kilcrease said his phone has been ringing off the hook with congratulatory calls. He said it has been hard to get much done, but that it is a great feeling to know that many people care about his team.

For all the players it is a goal within grasp. For senior Douglas Hawkins it is a dream come true.

“I feel privileged and excited to play in the game and we are just ready to go,” Hawkins said. “I have gone and watched all those games (at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium) for the past five or six years. Every year I have been saying, ‘Gosh I wish I had a chance to play in that game and I finally got that chance. It is unbelievable.”

Quarterback Trey Walters, a junior, is ready to get out on the turf.

“It is awesome and I am ready to see how it feels when we get on the field,” Walters said. “It feels good to be a part of the first team to play for the title.”

Senior Phillip Quincey would not mind if the game was today.

“We are just ready for the game to start,” Quincey said. “I would not mind strapping it on right now. I get real nervous all the time, but that first hit and all the nerves will be gone. This is what we have been working for all year.”

Junior Justin McLaughlin said he cannot wait to get the game started as well.

“It is a big honor to be playing in the state championship game,” he said. “We are going to try and have fun over there and bring back a state title.”

No matter whether they win or lose, the Patriots have made history this year. All eyes in Troy will be fixed on Movie Gallery Stadium Friday afternoon, as the Patriots look to finish off the historic season with a bang.