PIKE COUNTY, Ga. - Congrats to the Pike County Pirates - our High 5 Sports Team of the Week!
When Brad Webber took over as head football coach at Pike County High School in 2011 his first goal was to get his players into the weight room and help them understand the value of being physically fit. It's Webber's comfort zone, having received a Masters degree and a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the University of Miami. He spent ten years with the Hurricanes and won two national championship rings, one while working for Jimmy Johnson and another under Dennis Erickson who followed Johnson as the Cane's head coach.
Webber brought his high-level brand of conditioning to Pike County, creating an army of "grinders" who understand that while they might not always match up athletically against certain opponents, their work ethic in the weight room can give them an edge in strength and endurance on Friday nights.
Pike County (7-3) flexes its newfound muscle with an intimidating offensive line anchored by 280 pound Jake Patterson, who holds the school record for pancake blocks. Defensively, the Pirates rely on a number of two-way players to get the job done. Senior defensive end Marcus Woods has been a revelation this season in his first year playing football at Pike County, Woods has dominated opponents, grading out in record fashion last week against Kendrick when he recorded four sacks helping the Pirates clinch a Region 4-AAA playoff spot with a 38-0 win.
But, no amount of effort and strength training could prepare Pike County's football team for what happened on the night of September 28 when their teammate, junior linebacker Dylan Thomas, collapsed and later died after suffering a traumatic head injury in a game against Peach County. Thomas' death rocked the town of Zebulon and elicited condolences from all over the world. The Pike County coroner officially ruled his death an accident, but that did little to comfort a devastated community.
"Dylan was somebody you could depend on," Stanford told High 5 Sports. "He wanted to play and was always a 'yes sir' kind of guy, as a student and an athlete. He was always respectful to others. It's one of those things where you know his parents taught him how to carry himself. When it happened, we all went into work mode- Coach Webber and his staff were the leaders who helped talk to the kids and their families. It was tough going to the hospital because we think of them (players) as our kids too, but the faith-based community offered us so much support to see the school through."
Since that tragic day, Pike County has devoted their season to Dylan- team captains carrying his number thirty-two jersey to the center of the field for every coin toss.
The Pirates won their third overall High 5 Sports Team of the Week award in a landslide four-day Facebook voting campaign. Pike County fans voted 5,472 times to bring The Hand Trophy back to Zebulon, so Paul Milliken and the Good Day Atlanta pep rally team could be there to raise it high in honor of the "grinders" who continue to make PCHS a force to be reckoned with on Friday nights.