ROLESVILLE — It has been 52 years since a Rolesville High football team has competed. The school, which closed its doors in 1965, fielded its last Blue Devils football team in 1961 before consolidating.
“It’s really good to have a high school again,” said Ronald Wall, 66, who was a manager with the Rolesville High team in 1961. “A community without a high school I think is incomplete. I’m not sure all the consolidation we did way back then was a good thing.”
Football also helps give a high school and community an identity to rally around, he said.
Thursday a Rolesville High team will take to the gridiron again – this time as the Rams.
The new Rolesville High School opened its doors Monday for classes for the first time. The school holds only freshmen and sophomores now, so the football program will compete only at the junior varsity level this year.
Next year, football will join all other Rams sports in varsity competition.
The team will play on Thursday nights this fall, but those surrounding the program hope the town of Rolesville will rally around the team as if it were playing on Friday nights.
“I think it’ll take a couple of wins to get people out here, but it’ll definitely be an event the community can get behind,” said Mike Fowler, whose son Mike is a freshman linebacker on the team. “I like to think of it as the team is making history. You can come back 40 years from now, and people will still be talking about that first year.”
A football program can unite a community in many ways, and for the first time in a while Rolesville has its own team to cheer.
“I expect for a lot of people to come out Thursday,” said Rams sophomore wide receiver Colby Cooper. “I expect it to be full, basically like a varsity game.”
Head coach Jermaine Evans has asked Wall and a few former players to speak to the team before Thursday’s game.
Things are very different now than they were in 1965.
Rolesville High, a small school at the time, previously competed at the 1A level, Wall said.
“What we did mostly was lose,” he said. “It was a very small school and I think there were 18 or 19 kids on the football team, and most of them had to play both ways; and if there was an injury, there was really trouble. ... We did one game I think that last year.”
The Rams will compete in the 4A Greater Neuse River Conference, alongside the likes of 2012 N.C. High School Athletic Association runner-up Garner.
“I want to bridge that gap, and I want these kids to understand where they’re coming from, what they’re playing for,” Evans said. “It’s a lot more than just we’re a new school. We’re a new school that has some history behind it that I want them to understand there was something here before us.”
Evans expects the community to rally around the team, especially when the team starts playing varsity competition on Friday nights next year.
He envisions Rolesville becoming a sort of ghost town during games because everyone will be at the high school stadium.
“I think it’s going to be more of an eastern North Carolina feel,” Evans said. “That’s really what attracted me to this job more than anything was the community around it. I like the way it’s set up. Rolesville is its own community. ... I’m excited for everybody that football can come back to the eastern part of the county other than East Wake.”