Franklin Pridgen’s promise was tested Friday night.
The coach of Wesleyan, the No. 1-ranked team in Class A, said he would never rescue his reserves if an opponent was about to ruin a shutout in a blowout game.
That’s significant because Wesleyan’s defense hadn’t allowed a point in its first five victories, and the score was 45-0 not long into the second quarter Friday night against Social Circle. The starters were gone after three quarters.
“Our kids take pride in that [scoreless streak] for sure, but that’s superficial for us, an extraneous issue,” Pridgen said. “Our goal is to win the right way. The cool thing is those young kids [who are backups] play really, really hard. Playing them builds depth and chemistry and pride on the team.” Chemistry and pride seem to permeate this college-looking campus nestled off busy Spalding Drive.
If this 13-year-old private high school in Norcross still has a little less than 1,000 alumni, as it claims, most of them must’ve been back on campus Friday night for homecoming.
The home side of Henderson Stadium was full, and every parking place within decent walking distance on this 70-acre campus was filled. Inside the stadium, dozens of kids played their own games on a grassy field just beyond the track, not so interested in the football team.
After all, it’s just another state championship team here. Wesleyan, which won its first state title in football last year, has claimed five state titles overall in each of the past two seasons, enough to stir up divisive complaints that private schools have an unfair edge over public schools in the smallest classification.
For a school this young, Wesleyan’s facilities are perhaps unmatched in Georgia. And now there’s a culture of winning that rubs off on one program to another. About 10 starters on the football team have won state titles in baseball, basketball or wrestling, according to Pridgen.
Conor Welton, the quarterback, is the baseball team’s leadoff hitter. Receiver Devin Stanton is the ace pitcher, a lefty. Kyle Karempelis, who rushed for 1,902 yards last season and scored three touchdowns Friday night, was a member of the 2008 state championship basketball team.
“It’s priceless,” Pridgen said of the experience of winning. “You cannot put a value on confidence. Combine that with a work ethic and the support of administration and parents and the facilities, and it’s very easy to win here.”
But Wesleyan is not perfect.
On the final play of the game, with many Wesleyan fans filing out, a junior from Social Circle named Chase Lackey took a sweep and ran 90 yards. The streak was over.
Wesleyan won 52-6, and Pridgen didn’t mind at all.
“Streaks like that are really a distraction,” he said. “The varsity defense is still unscored on, but the JV isn’t. The scoring streak was cool, but that’s not our focus. We’re trying to win a state championship.”
Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily