Walker Brittain CFNN Football Reporter
The year is 2013. Words like twerk and selfie find their way into the dictionary. It was before Cape Fear legend Justice Galloway Velazquez ever put on a Colts jersey, and the run for a state football championship.
2013 was the last time the Colts started 0-1, and it was Coach Jake Thomas’s first year at the helm.
“I feel like we have a higher commitment level and more guys showing up to summer workouts,” said Thomas, commenting on this year’s Colt squad. “Guys enjoy getting into the weight room and getting stronger and that helps prevent injury.”
Overall, it’s clear the Jake Thomas era at Cape Fear has used this same commitment and work ethic to transform a previously average to struggling program into a consistent state powerhouse.
It’s been almost three years since Cape Fear’s state championship run which consisted of victories like an overtime win against West Johnson, and beating perennial powerhouse teams like Cardinal Gibbons and Scotland County.
These wins on the way to the State Championship game at N.C. State University’s Carter-Finley Stadium were not only the peak of the 2016 football season, but the peak of Cape Fear’s football program as well. And it was Coach Thomas who led the Colt’s to a level of success previously unrivaled.
“(Scotland County) came in undefeated with the number 1 prospect (Zamir White), and nobody gave us a shot,” said Thomas, remembering the game that paved the way for Cape Fear’s trip to Raleigh. The Colts would prove the naysayers all wrong beating Scotland 27-7.
Despite the eventual outcome, the State Championship game was a moment that united generations of Colt fans, students and alumni whether a part of the first graduating class or current students or even future students. Grandparents and parents cheered along side with their grandkids and kids as one. Everyone in the stands felt like they were students again.
The massive horde of blue and gold completely filling one side of Carter-Finley’s lower level compared with sparse number of Dudley’s fans mirrored Xerxes’ Persian army staring down the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.
No matter the outcome, everyone remembers the crowd, the atmosphere and watching Cape Fear in the football state championship.
Every now and then it is good to look back at how far Cape Fear football has come in a relatively short period of time. The Seniors on the 2013 football team won a total of 10 games and had never experienced a winning season before their senior year began.
The seniors on this year’s squad have already accumulated 32 wins with a winning season each of their four years and have been to the state playoffs every year not to mention that state championship game in 2016. Who has been the constant? Coach Thomas.
“The bonds that I have created is why I still play football,” said senior Mark Burks. “I don’t know if my future in football has a serious availability to be able to play at the next level. What I have built here, what we have created here, the people that I have met here, this journey here is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
This Cape Fear program is not the same program that it was 2013. Coach Thomas has changed this program for the better and forever. His impact on the team on Colt culture can not be denied and will be long lasting.