Appomattox Raiders prepping for state title with head coach Smith’s presence close by

Head Coach Doug Smith has been fighting cancer while taking a step back from the sidelines

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.”

The Raiders will head to Stuart’s Draft on Saturday for the Class 2 State Championship.

“They’re very physical, they’re pretty much the same team from last year and they were slowing us down last year,” Williams said. “They’re a great team, they look like they hustle every play, it will be a good game this Saturday.”

And the team whose motto is “power of one” will be playing for one.

“It would mean everything to not only me but the team and the whole community. To see us prevail, it would be a testament to not only Coach Smith but to God who we give all our glory to. It would be huge,” Williams finished.

“We got Coach Smith,” Baker added.

The Raiders kick off at 2:30 p.m. at Stuart’s Draft.

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Brooke Leonard is the newest addition to the 10 Sports team, joining in June 2019.