Green Level soaks up historic moment: a victory in first-ever varsity football game

Steve Lyttle
·3 min read

Green Level High School head football coach Ben Goudeau laughed when asked about the memo.

You know? The memo about how a first-year varsity football team is supposed to go winless?

“No, I guess we didn’t get that memo,” Goudeau said this week, recounting how his team beat Triangle 4A foe Riverside 16-0 Saturday morning in its first-ever varsity game.

This seemingly out-of-place spring high school football season comes complete with plenty of twists for a new program.

But Green Level, which will not have a senior class until next year, had to endure more than COVID protocols, a season that was delayed six months and a condensed training schedule — just to get on the field for a varsity game.

Nature had one more nasty trick.

“We were excited about getting to play, but the weather … wow!” Goudeau said.

Rain moved into the Triangle area at mid-afternoon last Friday. A few hours before the scheduled kickoff, the game was called off.

“We really didn’t know when or where we would play,” Goudeau said. “It was probably 4 or 4:30 Friday afternoon before we knew.”

The game was rescheduled for Saturday morning at Durham County Stadium.

“To be honest, I can’t remember if I’ve ever done a Saturday morning game as a coach,” Goudeau said. “It took a lot of preparation.”

Due to COVID protocols, there was no pregame meal. Players drove or got a ride to the stadium.

But when the whistle sounded, the Gators made the most of the moment. Their defense picked off Riverside’s standout quarterback, Landin Sledge, three times. Sledge, a senior, passed for more than 3,700 yards last season. But Green Level logged a shutout.

Jackson Rukamp scored on a touchdown run, Carter Devereaux passed to Elias Walsh for a score, and Green Level’s defense added a safety.

“I don’t think it sunk in, initially, with the kids,” Goudeau said. “Then they realized that we had won our first varsity football game. They were excited.”

Green Level’s team isn’t exactly a football version of the Bad News Bears. The Gators’ junior varsity team went 9-1 a year ago.

“There are some good players on this team,” Goudeau said. “But they understand that we still have a long way to go.”

Green Level’s coach has one regret from the game.

“I wish we could have had our fans there,” he said.

That will change this Friday, when Green Level plays its first home varsity game, entertaining Athens Drive High. A change in guidelines will allow for at least a couple hundred fans to be in the stands.

“That will be nice,” Goudeau said.

For now, Green Level has never lost a varsity game. And the Gators are unbeaten in Saturday morning contests. But Goudeau said he told his team not to spend too much time celebrating.

“We’re facing a team this week that will want to beat us,” he said. “We’ve got to stick to business.”

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle