TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — For the first time in school history, the James S. Rickards High School football team will play in the state semifinals. There haven't been any challenges thrown their way that the Rickards Raiders couldn't handle on their sensational playoff run.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to Black Lives Matter, this year's team has faced adversity from the very beginning. But it's the matter in which they've conquered each challenge that's put this program on the right path for success in the years to come.
"We want to make sure the guys under us learn something from us, make sure we leave them with something because they know they can be great," said Darius Glee, a senior center for the Raiders. "They know they can do something big, greater than what we've done, no matter the outcome on Friday."
From the time he was hired in March 2012, head coach Quintin Lewis has turned Rickards into one of the best up and coming programs in all of Class 5A. He's built a culture that kids want to be a part of, and no one knows that better than Glee.
A four-year starter with more than 40 varsity games under his belt, who was just outside shooting hoops when a high school football coach wanted to give him an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than himself.
"I just remember a man [Quintin Lewis] saying, 'Hey I want you to be great, I want you to go to the best high school in Florida, I want you to do something with yourself besides giving up and wasting your talent,'" he reflected.
Glee, and the rest of the Raiders, have a golden opportunity to showcase why they belong in Friday night's contest.
What's plagued this team in years past has now become a strength, and as long as they perform like they've done all season long, Doak Campbell Stadium will be waiting for the next week.
"We gotta work on finishing games and finishing whatever we're doing," said Lewis. "Everything we do is all about finishing, and they've been doing a great job finishing this year. Just staying in games, keep fighting, finishing. Playing 48 minutes of football, and that's what they've done this year."
Rickards Class 5A state semifinal showdown with Dunellon is set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Friday at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee.