Living in the Paws of a Wildcat


Pereira kicking field goal

Jake Pereira, Managing Editor

Being a Wheeler football player does not end on Friday night. It is not about the touchdowns or the pep rally or even the jerseys. It is about the life lessons you learn while playing for the Wildcats. Other teams may have more wins and fancier programs, but the Wildcats have a lot more than what is on paper. There is a particular bond among the players that last a lot longer than four years. When you see a fellow teammate on the street, there is unspoken respect that we have for one another. We as players have a bond that is tight-knit. We all know what it means to hate Walton and to feel that Friday night light high. Wheeler Football will change a lot throughout the years, but one thing will remain the same, and that is Wildcat Pride.

Playing high school football in the state of Georgia is not easy, primarily when your team plays in Georgia’s largest division. Every Friday night you can easily go up against a nationally ranked player. This action can be intimidating, but you quickly realize the amount of confidence you need when you’re playing varsity football. I remember my very first varsity game like it was yesterday. It was my freshman year, and we were playing Duluth high school. I remember during warm-ups I was trying to act tough and cool, but knowing otherwise. The game was started off by my kickoff. I remember hearing the hostile away crowd roaring and the electricity in the air. I kept telling myself that it was just like any other kick, but even that didn’t help. I could hear my heartbeat and my head tightening. I took one breathe after the other and followed it with a step. As I approached the ball, I knew that I was about to show the team and high school what I was made of. I kicked the ball and saw it soar in the air. The play lasted maybe fifteen seconds, but it felt like fifteen hours. I went on to have a pretty solid freshman season, and throughout the year my nerves began to go away.

After freshman year, I became addicted. I did not mind going to the early morning workout or the mandatory Mat Drills, because I knew come fall time my passion would continue. Unfortunately, I tore my hip flexor during the preseason. I then proceeded to play on it, and it went ok until we played Walton. I missed two extra points, and we ended up losing. This game was my first abysmal experience. I learned a lot about how people react when you don’t do too well. I figured out that people like a winner and that who they will support. The second you mess up they will turn on you. It was a growing experience, and I am glad I went through it. At the time it was hard to go through especially since my mistake went viral on Twitter.

Junior year was a wild ride. I started the year off learning that I was getting replaced. I felt angered and betrayed. Little did I know that this brought the best out in me. Tommy Lusk was a senior who was the captain of the soccer team. My coach asked him to try out, and he could kick. We battled for the position during the summer, and I ended up winning the spot. We shared some of the kicking duties, and it went well. Tommy and I became great friends, and he taught me to not treat football so seriously. Once I did this, I began to enjoy football again and loved being there. I was glad I learned a lot this season about being a competitor and being a good teammate.

Senior year came, and I had to realize that I cannot be selfish anymore. I had to become a leader of a youthful Wheeler team. I had two fantastic young kickers named Kienna and Tanner. I learned from them that it does not matter who you are or what you have to bring; hard work and disciple can overcome anything. It was a lot of mentoring this year, and I experienced what it was like to have people truly depend on you. It was a humbling experience, and I am happy that I had to do it.

Pereira kicking against Walton

Wheeler football taught me so much. It developed the person I am today, and I cannot be more thankful for what they have done. It was an adventure I could have gotten nowhere else. The relationships I formed where incredible, and I am so glad I got to meet them. Football brought us all together, and it was such a pleasurable way to spend high school. Thank you Wheeler Football you will always have a special place in my heart.