APPOMATTOX, Va. – When you drive into Appomattox, you know right away it’s a football town. The Raiders’ highest honors are listed above their stadium, four titles in five years.
Signs cheering the team on stand tall in neighboring yards.
And as the team took the field Tuesday to prepare to add another championship to their resume, the man who established the winning ways of the Raiders, was missing from the sidelines.
“Our coach, Coach Smith, what he’s dealing with, it’s been real tough on him, real tough on us,” center Jacob Williams said.
Head Coach Doug Smith told his team last fall he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, and would be stepping away for treatment, making his assistant Steven Castello the interim head coach.
“His presence is still felt throughout the program, the way we do things at practice, the offense we run, the defense we run, our special teams,” Castello said. “The way the kids act, the way we have our off-season it’s just a continuation of what he’s established.”
Whether he’s addressing the team via facetime during meetings or phoning in for a quick pep talk at a game, he’s always been right there.
“I think he’s proud of us regardless,” senior Keyshawn Baker said. “But without him being here physically, we still know he’s here mentally, spiritually, but he’s here, he has an impact on this team even when he’s not here.”