Nov 21, 2008
A year ago, after Leesville Road beat South View in the playoffs, Leesville coach David Greene said to his team, “Can we play football in Raleigh?
“Not bad for a bunch of little rich boys!”
Leesville Road’s rise from perennial also-ran to state semifinalist last season underscores a much larger trend - that Wake County teams are on the rise in high school football.
This year alone, seven of the remaining 16 teams in the Eastern 4-A and 4-AA bracket have Wake County zip codes. And Cardinal Gibbons remains alive in the 2-A playoffs.
"I definitely think the caliber of play around Wake County is definitely improving," said Daniel Finn, the head coach at Southeast Raleigh.
That new-found success at schools like Southeast Raleigh may be motivating more kids to take up football.
"It seems like they had a lot of opportunities other than football that kept them busy, but now they're refocusing on sports and athletics," Finn said.
Garner head coach Nelson Smith has seen the evolution of Wake County football first-hand.
"Football's gotten a lot better in Wake County, because believe me I was here 26 years ago and I’m here now and I've seen it grow and grow and it's going to keep getting better," he said.
But while Wake County teams are making more postseason noise across the board, the state finals are a different story.
"Until we get somebody in the state championship … I think that's when people will really start taking notice of Wake County and the improvements with football around the area," Finn said.
Getting over that title hump is Wake County's last hurdle in the drive for football respect.