Kinston's Midnight Madness kicks off area public school football practices
As the clock hit midnight, the Kinston High School football team met on the field to kick of its 2019 season. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
Kinston wasted no time getting prepared for the 2019 season.
The Vikings continued their tradition of Midnight Madness, starting their practice as the clock transitioned from Wednesday to Thursday to kick off football season. Kinston football coach Ryan Gieselman said the team has done the practices since 2015 — the progra’s best year, going 15-0 on the way to the state championship game.
“It gets the guys jacked up,” Gieselman said. “It’s the first day of football and they’re definitely excited about it.”
Kinston had a nice crowd on hand, as more than 100 spectators came to see what the team had to offer. Jessie Taylor was one of those in attendance and said she was excited.
“I’ve been coming out here for three years,” Taylor said. “I love to support the kids, but have even more of a reason because my grandson, Jayden, is playing.”
The Vikings have sustained success with 11 straight postseason appearances including six seasons of double-digit wins in the streak. Kinston had the second-best start in school history in 2018, going 12-0 heading into a third-round contest with Elizabeth City Northeastern.
Gieselman, the winningest football coach in Lenoir County history, is 57-23 in his six seasons at Kinston and said expectations remain high this year.
“Our guys (have to) buy into the program and do what we’ve always done,” Gieselman said. “(We have to) take care of the small things — getting better every day in practice. If we’re not getting better in practice, we’re going to be behind the 8-ball going into Week 1 against Farmville.
“We always have the same three goals: we want to be undefeated in nonconference, we want to be conference champs and play in that second week of December in the state.”
Offensive and defensive tackle KaCeion Williams said the team won’t shy away from putting in work.
“This is what we love to do,” Williams said. “We’re always looking to improve and get better. We’ve also got to keep our heads up no matter what — last year against Northeastern, if we had stayed focused early we could’ve come back — and we want to play in the second week of December.”
Khari Pitts is Kinston’s leading returning receiver, catching 34 passes for 530 yards and seven touchdowns, and will also play defensive back and some quarterback. Pitts said the chemistry has been great throughout.
“We’re all working toward getting better,” Pitts said. “It’s a new year and new team, and we get along with each other really well — we’ve got a good brotherhood.”
Safety Terrelle Pugh Jr. said the team had a great season last year, but there’s unfinished business to take care of in 2019.
“We’re staying focused, working hard, studying film and getting in the weight room,” Pugh said. “If you want something, you have to go get it and we have a team full of guys who have that mentality.”