The Gainesville High School Red Elephants football team was honored and celebrated Wednesday afternoon with a parade and reception for its Class AAAAA state championship victory over Ware County last December.
Originally, the celebration was supposed to take place Jan. 30, but inclement weather changed those plans. Things couldn’t have worked out any better than they did Wednesday afternoon. A 60-plus-degree day and sunshine greeted the players, coaches and fans.
The parade started at the high school and ventured down Oak, Academy and Green streets. Fans lined the sidewalks as the coaches, players and cheerleaders rode in trucks and cars. The route ended at P.K. Dixon Field House at City Park, where the reception took place.
Fans, young and old, posed for pictures with the players and coaches. Some asked for autographs. Some just talked, and looked back on what the team had accomplished.
“I think these young men really deserved the parade,” said John Forest, a fan of the Red Elephants. His son also plays on the team. “I think it’s great for these young men and the community, and Gainesville High School. As you see, all these people came out to celebrate this with these young men and the school system.
“I think it’s a great feeling for the community. To win your first state championship, it’s a real good thing, especially for a young man. Because only special people, special teams get that, and it could be once in a lifetime, could be twice in a lifetime. It all depends on the team you play for.”
Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller wanted to get across one thing: The city of Gainesville is just like the football team. It moves together as a team.
“Amazing. It’s absolutely amazing,” Miller said after the parade. “What a beautiful day to have it on. The town turned out. We won (the championship) as a team. This town goes as a team. It’s just a great thrill for these kids.”
Miller also said fans were yelling at him during the parade saying, “When are you going to bring another (championship) home?” His response, “How about next year?”
Gainesville High principal LaCrisia Larkin expressed her thanks on behalf of the school to Miller and the football team. She said she wanted everyone to be proud of the accomplishment.
“This is an opportunity for us to come together and celebrate our Class AAAAA championship team. This is an opportunity to say job well done; hard work and dedication (do) pay off,” she said.
Stephen Louis, a fan of the Red Elephants and a graduate from Gainesville High School, came to support Gainesville’s first championship team, because the title had eluded the football program for so many years. Now it has one to celebrate.
“I’m a former graduate of Gainesville High School, and had been to three state-championship games. We finally got it on the last one,” he said.
Senior Fred Payne spoke on behalf of the team. Payne said he wanted the fans to know that they were as big a reason for the team’s success as anything else.
“I want to thank everyone for their support. There are a lot of great faces and smiles (out there),” he said. He also said the smiles from the family, friends and fans were a blessing for the team throughout the season.