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As the year closes, we all sit back and think about the lessons learned from the past year.

As I embarked on my journey to this publication, I didn’t realize how many people I would have the opportunity to meet and interact with.

I didn’t realize how much football meant to this community.

There are a ton of things I didn’t understand at first or realize but the one thing that I did take notice to were the young players at Neal and Miller and the coaches and coaching staff that lead them.

Let’s face it, the world today is a rough place.

It seems you have to watch your back at every turn and it makes you concerned for our young people.

Over the course of the past few months of this past year, I have shared the sidelines with some of the most impressive, respectable and hardworking young men that you could ever wish to interact with.

These young men are being led by two of the best football coaches that one could ever ask for.

These coaches are not just about football, but are determined to help mold these young men into great people.

The players that they work with each day are grasping the concept.

I have watched both teams lose big games during the course of this past season.

Not one held their head down.

Each player held their heads high and was determined to fight on.

I have seen the disappointment in their faces, not because they lost, but because they felt like they let their coaches down.

That was not the case in any sense.

The coaches simply picked up the spirits of these players and prayed with them.

Defeat is not an option for either of these two teams.

They simply refuse to be defeated even in the face of a loss.

I have seen players extend a hand to help their opponents up after making a tackle.

I have witnessed players shaking hands with an opposing teams coach congratulating them on their accomplishment.

That is the traits of a true winner.

Players such as Ricky Samuel and Mateo Smith have what it takes to be successful leaders on and off the field.

In their senior year, both have been leaders for their teams.

I have witnessed the respect that both of these players carry with them on and off the field.

These two coaches are raising each player on their team with these traits.

My advice to these players is to never throw in the towel.

Life will get hard at times.

Tough choices will have to be made.

Disrespect will be thrown your way.

The thing that matters is how you handle these situations.

Never give up and always be yourself.

Start each day with a task in mind that you want to accomplish and do it.

And no matter what anyone says, remember you are good enough.

Place God first and the rest will come.