ATLANTA — The 72 members of the Burke County football team learned Monday that winning brings lots of friends when they were honored at the state Capitol.
For one thing, they received a warm welcome from Gov. Nathan Deal even though they had defeated his hometown team, Washington County High.
They posed for a picture with him and gave him a jersey with the No. 11 to remember the year of his team’s defeat – 2011 – to the AAA state champions, and he accepted it with a grin.
The boys also shook hands with politicians, rubbed elbows in the hallways with lobbyists, saw a large abortion protest outside and dined courtesy of two of the most powerful corporate interests at the statehouse, AT&T and Georgia Power. The team took it all in, most on their first visit to the Capitol.
“This is my first time in the Capitol. It feels great,” said Derwin Butler, the Bears’ defensive captain. “It’s kind of like I thought, with a whole lot of statues and pictures and stuff.”
“This place is huge,” said senior Corey Mayton.
“It’s a nice place,” senior Charles Petrea said. “It’s a place I’d like to work in one day.”
The team’s 14-1 season last year drew the support of theresidents, said Johnny Jenkins, the long-time chairman of the county school board.
“It’s big for us,” he said. “We’re excited. It’s pulled the whole community together.”
Even though Burke claims to be the largest county east of the Mississippi River, it only has 25,000 people and 4,500 students.
Adding to the excitement was seeing the House of Representatives honor Lindsay Scott, a graduate of Wayne County High School who played on the University of Georgia national-champion football team in 1980.
Coach Eric Parker told the legislators that although academics is the main purpose in high school, winning is also nice because of the places it takes you.
“We’d like to come back in the near future,” he said.
The day ended with a long bus ride home in time for several of the players to make basketball practice.