The East Wake Warriors procession onto the field for their football season opener against South Johnston was special.
It wasnt because it was the start of another season.
It was more special than that for the many who saw junior Damontay Rhem break through the banner wielding East Wakes battle sword. East Wake had the sword made with the No.72 on its handle in honor of Jacob Spain, who died during May 2012.
Spain was attending East Wakes Future Farmers of America banquet when he collapsed. He passed away a few days later from a brain aneurysm.
Jacob would have been a senior lineman on the team this year. His jersey number has been retired to honor his time with the football program.
With that in mind, it wasnt much of a surprise to learn the Warriors had done a great deal of reflecting on Spain over the summer and into the fall.
We visited his grave again before pregame and talked about sacrifice he would do anything to help anybody and what he meant to us in different areas, coach John Poulnott said. He was a great friend and a great Christian.
Poulnott and his players talked about how Jacob was young, like all the players are, when he passed away and that you never know when youre going to be called home.
We definitely want our kids to realize life is precious, and Jacob is an example of that in a lot of ways, Poulnott said. A lot of the kids loved him. He was all about pushing his teammates and being a great example.
We feel like hes there with us in the circle, and he would want his teammates to play full speed.
East Wake wore new jerseys for the opener and Rhem was chosen to carry the sword for the first game.
Rhem talked to me about how we were going to show our love for Jacob, Poulnott said. Connor (Earp) and Sam (Marsh), and Nick (Sanders) as well. The guys I would have chosen as captains were the ones who have shown me commitment all summer long and came to me wanting to recognize Jacob. They go hand-in-hand.
Beginning next fall, the No.72 jersey will be awarded each year to an East Wake offensive linemen who earns it based on character and commitment.