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West Hall focuses on community ahead of big football game
West Hall Principal Scott Justus gets the crowd going with a rousing speech.

West Hall vs. Oconee County
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: West Hall Stadium, Oakwood
Admission: $8 per ticket

For West Hall High Principal Scott Justus, tonight’s football game is less about the result and more about the community the team’s winning season has inspired.

“It’s an amazing thing,” Justus said. “Our kids have all really bought into not just football, but they’ve bought into West Hall High School.

“It amazes me ... to watch how that has come together, and how everyone has become just one, big happy family — our middle school, our elementary schools and our coaching staffs, not just football but all our athletic (teams) — they’ve gotten behind not just our football program, but they’ve gotten behind West Hall High,” he said.

The West Hall Spartans are facing the Oconee County Warriors in the first round of the state playoffs, coming off last week’s triumph as the football team claimed its first region title in the program’s history.

“They got a taste of the playoffs last year,” said Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Ethan Banks about the team. “They got a taste of it, and they wanted more.

“Even before then, our kids believed. And they’re hungry. Coming into this season, they had one thing on their minds. This was Coach (Tony) Lotti’s third year; he wanted a region championship, and they went out and got it. When you set goals like that and you attain them, it’s a huge victory.”

A Thursday pep rally brought the school and many community members together, with palpable energy in the air ahead of the big game.

“It’s exciting,” said West Hall freshman Kylie Passmore. “I’ve been to every single (game). I can see ... they’ve gotten better, and they’re more hyped up.”

“It’s been nonstop,” said Debbie Oliver, who has children on both the football and cheerleading teams and in the band.

“We all pull together as a community,” added parent Anna Allen. “Everybody’s involved. Not only are we a team, but everybody’s a family.”

Both Banks and Justus agreed.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Banks said. “People give back, once they’ve gone on and done great things, they come back and they contribute to the West Hall community. That’s one of the biggest things. We try to instill that sense of community and relationships in our students by having them do things at the other campuses, because we see that happen for adults that come back and work for West Hall.”

Tonight’s football game begins at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $8 and may be purchased at the gate. There is plenty of parking around the school itself, or supporters can also park at the nearby West Hall Middle School.

“We’re anticipating a big crowd,” Banks said. “We’re hoping that our parking lot will be full. The baseball field is an option if they want to park near the baseball field. We do have an entrance near the back of the stadium, which is a great easy in, easy out.”

It’s no secret that everyone — from the coaches to the players to the students to the administration — wants to win the game. It would be the first time for the Spartans to beat Oconee, according to Banks, and the team really wants to get that win in the books.

But at the end of the day, it’s about so much more than moving on to play again next week.

“Our kids are winners regardless of the outcome (tonight),” Banks said.

“The result for (tonight) is just a bonus,” Justus added. “Yes, we 100 percent want to win that ball game. But in my eyes, we’ve already won. Because this community’s back, and they’re behind West Hall. And I say that not just for the high school, but the entire West Hall community. And that’s a beautiful thing to see.”

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