The Rebels suffered one of their most heart-breaking losses in school history Friday night.
After such an emotionally up-and-down season, with one of the best moments being starting out 3-0 in the Southern Piedmont Conference, the image of senior linebacker Jon Thomas embodies what West Lincoln is all about– hard-working, relentless and full-of-heart.
Thomas was the last to leave the field, sobbing uncontrollably, knowing the opportunity to make school history by making the 2A Football Playoffs had fallen by the wayside.
â€œItâ€™s going to be tough to be in the stands knowing you could be out there. You work hard, not only this year, but your whole life since the second grade,â€ Thomas said.
â€œYou played football in the community. You work hard and go to practice every day, itâ€™s tough. Itâ€™s tough to lose, knowing you should be there, you should go. We really wanted to make history. Everybody said we were going to be the team to do it and we gave it the best effort we had,â€ he explained, as he choked back the tears.
One of the leaders of the defense, and a large part of its heart and soul, Thomas and the Rebels should be commended for beginning the season undefeated.
They should also be commended for buying into what first-year head coach Randall Gusler wanted to do, not just in the second half, where he switched from their Wing-T offense to a shotgun set, but for the season as a whole.
One-by-one, seniors hugged Guslerâ€™s neck, saying things like, â€˜itâ€™s been a pleasure playing for you coach,â€™ or â€˜I love you,â€™ as they left the locker room.
While West Lincoln may not have made the playoffs, it was clear their was a mutual respect between Gusler and players alike.
More importantly, they made many in the West Lincoln community and other places in Lincoln County, believeâ€”believe that heart and hard work can make up for lack of jaw-dropping athletes.
Not that I thought, Guslerâ€™s predecessor Butch Parker did a bad job, but Gusler has infused life into Rebels and brought a different coaching style into the locker room.
Maybe, just maybe, the Rebels will once again make us believe and perhaps do us one betterâ€”show us they belong in the playoffs by acutally making them.
â€œYou learn lessons in life from football, Iâ€™ve learned that real quick,â€ Thomas said.
â€œI canâ€™t fault any of the kids for the way they played, they played great. Iâ€™m kind of in shock right now,â€ Gusler said.
by John Mark Brooks