The student section chants, “I believe that we will win!” at every football game. And, as it appears, this belief has reigned true in practically every game so far this season.
Coach Mcleod has led the team to be 2nd in the district under Lafayette, the only game they have lost this season.
Senior Tavaris Noel says of the coach, “Coach Mcleod has developed a great football program here, and we’re the first class to go through his full program (9th- 12th grade), which has shown on and off the field.” Noel is currently Grafton’s safety and after many Ivy league offers, has committed to playing for Princeton in 2017.
Last year, the team lost to Heritage (35-34) in the 4A East Region first round, but the players believe they can rise higher. Noel is quick to remember Coach Mcleod’s major role in their success this year. “Compared to last year, most of the underclassmen had big shoes to fill, but Coach did a great job preparing players to step up to the challenge.”
A major strength the Clippers have is their tight bond as brothers. Spectators enjoy seeing smiles and words of encouragement shared between the teammates and coaches during games and their classic huddle to get rived up.
Noel says about his team, “Our team is great at coming together as a family and fighting for the guy beside us on every down.”
The unexpected loss of Coach Rob in May of last year “hit all the players and coaching staff hard, but [they] used his death as a motivation to keep playing for him every snap,” Noel remembers. Coach Mcleod told the Daily Press of when he broke the devastating news to the team, “They kind of sat quietly for a little bit and reflected, then a couple of them slowly came around to the thought that (Robinson) would want them to stick together and work hard. So, after about 20 minutes of getting through it all, they decided they wanted to go up and lift weights to honor him.”
The players all have learned so much while playing for Grafton not only about the American game but also about the importance of teamwork and persistence. Noel says, “Through the program, I’ve learned no matter what I’m doing in life, to always give 100% and to be fully devoted to it.”
As playoffs and the state championships arrive, Grafton is hopeful that their team, with noteworthy performance from seniors Tavaris Noel, Ray Gonzalez, and Ryan Pabon, will continue to not only fight for excellence this season but will carry on this legacy of determination into college careers.
Noel says about leaving the Grafton family, “When I graduate, I’m going to miss everything about the program and especially the friends I’ve made along the way.”