From LHS to the SEC Championship: Former Grangers to represent hometown in halftime performances

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2023

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When college football powerhouses Georgia and Alabama collide in the SEC Championship game on Saturday, two LaGrange High graduates will be taking the field on opposite sides. Williams Pitts and Reese Lester are friends, former bandmates and teammates on the soccer field. On Saturday, they will be marching with the Red Coat Band and the Million Dollar Band, respectively.

“We will be playing on the field playing together for the National Anthem, and we will both be on the field for the pre-game,” Pitts said. “I can’t wait to see him and see what their band has to offer.”

Lester is in his first year marching at Alabama, and it has been a learning experience for him. The transition brought some new challenges, but he met them head-on.

“It is way different than the high school experience,” Lester said. “The crowd, the halftime show, the bands, everything is bigger. My first few games I was shaky a bit, but I powered through it.”

Pitts is the veteran of the two as he graduated a year before Lester from LaGrange. Now in his second year in Athens, Pitts has never performed at a game that the Bulldogs lost.

Pitts has experienced the SEC Championship, the Peach Bowl, the National Championship and many other big games. While Lester got to experience an iconic Iron Bowl last week, taking the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is going to be a new experience for him.

“It’s going to be cool to see him at such a big game and so close to our hometown,” Lester said. “A year has passed, so I’m excited to see him.”

The butterflies that they got in their stomachs before their first few games marching are long gone, but the excitement leading up to a game day remains for them both.

“Last year for the season opener we played Oregon at The Benz and playing halftime in front of almost 100,000 people was surreal,” Pitts said. “It was the greatest experience I’ve ever had and even though I’m more used to it now, I still get excited.”

The excitement before game day remains present as both got a chance to march in college on a whim. Pitts, a lifelong Bulldogs fan, always knew he wanted to attend UGA and decided to try out for the band.

“I’ve been saying ‘Go Dawgs’ since before I could even talk, and honestly I thought I would be done with marching band and applied to Georgia without even thinking about the band,” Pitts said. “I got this wild thought that I’m not too shabby at marching and playing saxophone, so I thought I would try out. I’m not even sure what triggered the thought, but it’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Marching at Alabama is not what Lester, who grew up in an Auburn household with two of his brothers currently attending the university, had in mind growing up.

“My family has always been Auburn fans, so this is like me joining the enemy for them,” Lester said with a chuckle. “I always knew that I wanted to march with a college band, but I never expected it to be Alabama.”

It has been over a year since the two have seen each other as they went their separate ways, but they have been in contact and plan to meet up with each other on Friday at rehearsals before taking the field together on Saturday in two different shades of red. However, Granger blue still in their hearts.