When James Holmon was a preschooler, Laney started resurrecting its football program.
For the past 13 years, the Wildcats have been the cream of the crop in Richmond County. Because of Laney’s success, the senior center said high expectations are a given.
“We come to win,” Holmon said. “We don’t like to lose. We were born to win.”
This generation of Laney football players doesn’t know what it’s like to lose. Legendary coach David Dupree won a pair of state titles in 1961 and 1966.
But after he retired following the 1983 season, the program fell on tough times. In the next 16 seasons, Laney won a total of 40 games.
In 2000, Eric Parker (now the head coach at Burke County) led the Wildcats to their first 10-win season since 1966. Under Parker (and assistants Lemuel Lackey and David Griffin, who are still with the program), Laney made two trips to the state semifinals in the Georgia Dome.
Since 2000, the Wildcats have gone 103-50, with a streak of 13 consecutive non-losing seasons.
“We developed a certain level of consistency and we were able to maintain that,” said Lackey, who enters his seventh season as head coach with a 39-26 record and four playoff appearances. “You know how things are supposed to work.”
Taking that next step as a program has been a high hurdle for Laney. The Wildcats missed winning the region and having home-field advantage for at least the first two rounds of the 2012 playoffs after they lost by a point to Screven County. Instead of possibly advancing to the state quarterfinals, Laney fell in the first round.
Losing close contests makes it tough for Lackey, because winning is expected.
“No one has this kind of pressure to win. No one,” Lackey said. “I don’t get any other kind of advantage that any Richmond County coach gets. Whatever number of coaches I have, they have.
“I think we’re going overboard to maintain. People don’t understand you are handicapped an awful lot. Number of coaches. Budget cuts. Everything.”
Lackey said he’s excited about the upcoming season. But to contend for a Class AA title, Laney needs more players to build depth – he currently has about 50 – and more money like booster clubs at some area schools like Burke County, Lincoln County and Thomson provide, he said.