Leopards are our champions

Mahatma Gandhi has been quoted as saying, “Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them — a desire, a dream, a vision.”

That is how we see this year’s Lakewood High School football team: young men who had a burning passion to play the game and an even stronger desire to do their very best each and every time they stepped onto the gridiron.

With an overall record of 11-3, tying the schools record for most victories, 4 conference wins under their belt and only one loss and a state run that carried them to the third round of the playoffs, the Leopards produced a tremendous showing, one in which they should take great pride.

Also to their credit, this team of young men, mostly made up of juniors or younger, stepped into a season minus 21 senior leaders and yet stood tall and strong game after game, breaking or tying records along the way. In addition to hitting the school’s old victory mark, the Leopards earned the most shutout victories in a season with 8.

None are easy feats, yet this group of young men set their minds and hearts on being the best they could be, and they proved their mettle game after game.

While the Leopards didn’t make it to the final game, we still view them as champions. We hope every person in Sampson County sees them that way as well.

For champions aren’t defined merely by their win-loss record, nor are they labeled as such simply because they bring home the massive trophy. They are champions because of their work ethic, their drive, their heart and the way they conduct themselves both on the field and off, in the classroom and outside the confines of the high school.

And that is why we see the Leopards as champions.

They carried themselves well on the field, and we understand that they conduct themselves in like manner at the school, showing athletic acumen and academic smarts combined with good hearts, gentle spirits and courteous demeanor that make them the kind of students teachers want in their classrooms.

Just as Coach James Lewis said in a Wednesday Sampson Independent article on the team, the Leopards are simply a “good group of young men,” boys with a lot of heart, individuals who understood that to be champions takes far more than just winning games.

It truly is about how you play the game, and the Leopards played it well, from an athletic standpoint as well as from a sportsmanship standpoint, reasons enough to call them champions.

What’s more the team seemed to understand the difference between celebrating each victory and boasting too quickly, realizing that there was always another opponent to face and another mountain to climb.

They cherished the wins, learned from their defeats and made no excuses as they worked harder and fought with more determination as they made their way through the season.

We applaud their efforts, individually and collectively; we commend Lewis and the coaching staff for being leaders and examples to a team willing to accept and learn from them; and we offer a cheer for a great season that has brought pride to Roseboro and, in truth, the entire county.

The Leopards are our champions; our hat is off to them for a stellar season.