Jackets start new sports year with their fans
Thunderstorms late Wednesday night meant Lee County's football team couldn't open its football season with a practice under the Paul B. Gay Stadium lights at midnight Thursday morning.
The Yellow Jacket Sports Kickoff was still a success as a few hundred Lee County parents and fans joined Yellow Jacket football players, other athletes who started their official preseason practices Thursday and a whole bunch of younger kids playing games and having fun on the Yellow Jacket football field.
On the field, along with a bounce house and fast-pitch game, were more football-focused games, such as throwing a football through a tire or into a trash can in the corner of the end zone, or a punt, pass and kick contest for the younger players.
Around the field, there was stadium food and Huckleberry Blue in concert.
There was some business to the Kickoff, such as a football parents' meeting and new athletic director, yet longtime Lee County basketball coach, Reggie Peace playing emcee for a couple minutes and introducing "Jacket Nation."
"For all of our sports teams, one of the main things we expect out of our Jacket teams this year is to play hard until the final whistle blows," Peace said. "We expect our teams to play with great sportsmanship and play hard."
There were a few coaching suggestions for Yellow Jacket parents and fans as well, such as loud support for Lee County shouldn't go along with demeaning officials or opponents.
As NCHSAA rules allow, all fall sports teams could begin practice Thursday. The Yellow Jacket soccer team's regular season opens Aug. 19 at home against Richmond.
Lee County's volleyball team will play in the preseason All-Lee County Tournament at Lee Christian on Aug. 17, then start its season Aug. 20 at home versus Pinecrest.
Ladies golf starts its season versus Western Harnett on Aug. 21 at Sanford Golf Course. Lady Jacket tennis opens up at Douglas Byrd, a new conference foe, on Aug. 21. Jacket cross country has its first meet Aug. 21 at home against Western Harnett.
Lee County's football squad, coming off a 9-4 season in its last year as a 4A program, travels to South Carolina to face Spartanburg Christian on the first Friday night, Aug. 23, of the season. The Yellow Jackets have three weeks of practices, at a more normal time and without the fun and games, to get ready for a quite different schedule.
The Yellow Jackets finished second, with a 6-2 mark, in its farewell from the Tri-Nine and reached the second round of the state playoffs before leaving 4A.
The Jackets and head coach Burton Cates, in his fifth year at Lee County, lost 28 seniors, losing the most experience on the offensive side of the ball.
Lee County joins county rival Southern Lee, with the Brick City Bowl moving to the season finale on Nov. 8, along with Gray's Creek, Douglas Byrd, Union Pines, Terry Sanford and Westover in the 3A Cape Fear Valley Conference.