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Rituals, superstitions return with opening of season

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy’s Rico McWilliams vows that whatever he wears to the first game of the season, he will wear to every game — but unlike some superstitious players, he will make sure to actually wash the clothes between wearings.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Lovejoy’s Rico McWilliams vows that whatever he wears to the first game of the season, he will wear to every game — but unlike some superstitious players, he will make sure to actually wash the clothes between wearings.

Lovejoy defensive back/wide receiver Rico McWilliams will be playing his first high school game since sustaining an injury last season in the fifth game.

But before the competition begins Friday at Twelve Oaks Stadium, McWilliams will go through his usual pregame ritual.

After he and his teammates take the field, McWilliams will find a place to get in his stance and then begin backpedaling. Once he is through with his short defensive drill, he will get in his wide receiver stance and do a couple sprints.

Finally, he will say a short prayer, and then join his teammates for the pregame warmups.

“Every player has something they like to do before the game,” McWilliams said.

Several miles away, Union Grove’s D.J. White will find a quiet place that he can just “relax and get focused” before his team takes the field.

“I like to go off by myself,” said White, whose team will travel to Northside-Warner Robins for Friday’s season-opener. “I just like to get away. If we were home, I’d go in the weight room.”

While pregame rituals return with the start of the season, so do superstitions.

Since spraining his ankle in middle school, Drew offensive tackle Antonio Garcia will not be wearing white socks again this season. His preferred color is navy blue.

“I hurt my ankle once wearing white socks, and I haven’t worn any again in a game,” he said. “I don’t like them.”

Whatever socks and undergarments that McWilliams wears the first game, he will keep as part of his wardrobe the entire season.

“Yep, I will continue to wear the same socks, shirt, whatever, throughout the season,” McWilliams said.

The garments will make it to the laundry?

“Of course,” he said. “I’ll wash it, and then wear it the next game.”

While White, who has committed to play college football at South Florida, has a pregame ritual, he claims not to be superstitious.

“I don’t have any superstitions,” he said. “I just like to stay relaxed and play carefree throughout the game.”

Garcia’s pregame ritual consists of music, talking and prayer.

His music selection is hip hop, of course. Before taking to the field for pregame warmups, Garcia gathers his other line mates for a strategy and pep session.

“We talk about getting ready, and staying focused,” he said. “I like to say a Bible verse. I listen to music before each game to get into that zone.”