While South Lakes may be well into its winter sports season, it is still important to remember the accomplishments of our fall sports; specifically, in this instance, the football team. The Seahawks finished their season 7-5 overall, including a thrilling overtime win against Chantilly in the first round of the playoffs.
Down 40-37 with mere minutes on the clock, South Lakes running back Joseph Dagbe took an end-around handoff 15 yards into the endzone for his third rushing touchdown of the game, providing the Seahawks with the walk-off win; he finished the game with 161 total yards of offense and 5 total touchdowns.
Dagbe, one of the most versatile athletes on the South Lakes team, concluded his high school career the next weekend in the Seahawks’ loss against Westfield, but it was the Chantilly game that put the cap on his time playing for the Seahawks.
Over the course of three seasons, Dagbe tallied 2,190 total yards and 27 total touchdowns across three positions (running back, wide receiver, and quarterback), while averaging 7.4 yards-per-carry and 12.6 yards-per-catch. Before the basketball season began, I had the chance to catch up with Joseph, who is also a starting guard for the South Lakes boys varsity basketball team, to talk about his football career, and how the game has had an effect on him personally.
Q. What were your emotions after you took the final football snap of your high school career?
JD: Leading up to it, being down by that many points, it had kind of hit me before it was over. There were probably five minutes left in the game and my body was really defeated. I was still feeling it from the week before, having to do a lot of hard work in the Chantilly game, and it was definitely taking a toll on my body, mentally too. Not going to lie, I almost broke down on the sideline just knowing that I was putting everything into [the game], pushing myself to see how much I could really give and [that night] I just left everything on the field. When the clock hit 0:00, I didn’t cry, I didn’t have too much emotion. I was thankful to have played a great game against Westfield every year, and I made sure I wasn’t too emotional to which I couldn’t recognize [the Westfield team] and all their hard work. I kept a smile on my face as I walked through the handshake line and I gave everybody love from that side, and it came right back to me. After you see your teammates, and you realize it’s the last time playing in that uniform with the players there, it’s a little difficult; some tears were shed, but in the end, it didn’t take me long to start remembering the good times. The loss of that game was out of my head, I was just thankful for all the good times and the hard work we had put in.
Q. In what ways has football had an impact on your life?
JD: I think it’s given me a lot of perspective and given me an outlet. It started out as just something for fun and it gradually became something much, much bigger than that. It started opening up doors [for me] and teaching myself who I am as a person. The Chantilly game paints a picture and teaches a lesson that no matter how bleak a situation looks or how down you think you are in life, there’s always a way to come back as long as you truly are determined to do it, you can’t take no for an answer. Winners will find a way to get the job done and that’s what football has really taught me, to give it everything you have every day in life.
Q. What’s your favorite memory from your time playing football at South Lakes?
JD: (Laughs) It’s like picking a favorite kid. One moment that really stood out to me was during my freshman year, we were playing Centreville, and there was a kid I look up to, his name is Spencer Alston, and he made one of the best catches in South Lakes history. It was a long time coming because in the years before that we weren’t really a good football team, the program didn’t really have that big of a name, and Centreville was the Westfield of the time (Centreville had won the state championship two years prior). Him going up and making that catch, I remember just sitting on the sideline and watching it happen, that’s when I really fell in love with football, watching someone I admired make a play like that.
Q. Any of your personal plays or moments?
JD: The Chantilly game was very remarkable because it was definitely a both-feet- through-the-door type thing; I had one foot through the door even all the way through my senior year. A lot from freshmen year is memorable: I remember sending out a text during our team trip that there was a party in a room, the coaches got mad and I ran [suicides] for that; I remember being very naive and oblivious to what was going on, but I spoke very highly of myself and the people around me; definitely throughout my four years, turning the dreams and words into reality [was a big thing].
Q. What kind of impact do you want to have left on South Lakes, not just the football program but the school in general?
JD: I think the impact that I made at South Lakes is very significant, not in terms of if I leave right now. I think during my time at South Lakes I have promoted a lot of positivity; I want to be able to leave and have people understand why they go to this school, what they do, and who they do it for. I think it is very valuable to work towards something and know why you are working for it, and to have good intentions in everything that you do. The biggest role I played was that I think I was the first person in this “new age” to really grasp all the different aspects that come with not just football, but media; videos, photography, being able to engage with things on social media. I think our social media at South Lakes, in terms of how our boosters handle things, our athletic teams handle things and carry themselves, there’s a standard of how we are supposed to carry ourselves on social media, which is a big role in the society today. So in terms of social presence, I think that South Lakes is looked at as now one of the schools that is a must-watch and a must-keep-up-to-date-with school because you never know what’s going to happen with them.
Q. What is in store for the next wave of high school football at South Lakes?
JD: I think that every team is very unique because there are always players moving around, there are always younger guys who are going to have to get called up and fill those roles, but mainly it’s all about the culture and what the culture of the program is; the team is going to go by the culture of the program, not the other way around. For example, we have a new coaching staff so the team is different but the culture stays the same, and that’s why we were able to overcome a lot of adversity because we knew where we came from, no matter if it was Nick Saban or Coach Hescock coaching us. Coaches make a difference, but at the end of the day only the players can play the game, and as long as the culture is there and all the standards are set before you step on the field, that’s all that matters.