Ds Scholarship

It’s Esports season at Hatteras Secondary School

Newly formed team competes in popular sport

The newly formed Hurricanes Esports team at Cape Hatteras Secondary School competed in its first matches last week, capturing a victory in its inaugural “Halo” competition. The team of eight students, coached by 2014 CHSS graduates JB Pitetti and Ian Folb, was formed last month to battle it out in the popular sport that involves multi-player video games played competitively.

“We smoked them,” senior Hobson Freye told the Voice just before practice got underway on Feb. 23.

The team is part of the High School Esports League and plays against squads across the country in two games, “Call of Duty” and “Halo.” Each Monday, the Halo team gears up to compete in the school library’s new state-of-the-art computer gaming area. On Fridays, the Call of Duty team takes over the gaming headquarters.

The teams the Hurricanes are assigned to each week are random, and last week’s matchups were challenging.

“Just to put it lightly, [the Halo team] did incredibly, incredibly well in their first game,” said Pitetti. As for the Hurricanes’ Call of Duty team, it was matched with the second-best team in the country and didn’t bring home a win, but it is optimism about the coming season.

“It’s okay, you can build from losses,” acknowledged Pitetti, noting that Call of Duty is a highly competitive game at all levels.

Pitetti and Folb volunteered to lead the new Esports team at the high school, having been longtime Esport competitors who competed at the college level while attending East Carolina University. They say the benefits of the virtual sport go well beyond the wins and losses.

“My biggest thing was that this can appeal to kids who may not have any desire to play a traditional sport. And I think learning the teambuilding fundamentals is super important for interpersonal development and it goes a long way in the real world,” explained Pitetti, who is also a deputy with the Dare County Sheriff’s Department.

“I wanted everyone who maybe felt like a bit of an outcast to have a home here and feel accepted, both after school and in their community – and of course, it is fun,” he said. “We’re blessed, we really have a great group of kids.”

While not all the members of the Esports team compete, Pitetti pointed out that there is a place for everyone on the team, with some members assisting the team and helping with organizing and other tasks. “My goal was to give everyone an opportunity to have team experience whether they were competing directly or not,” he said.

“The reason I enjoy being a part of the Esports team, is for the first time in my entire life, I feel like I belong to something,” team member Jay Keiser offered. “I feel like there’s a group of people who I relate with. There’s a team and I get to learn new things about students I never got to learn before. It gives me the opportunity to be myself in an environment where I don’t always get that opportunity.”

What made the Hurricanes Esports program possible at Cape Hatteras Secondary School was the major overhaul of computer equipment after damage from Hurricane Dorian destroyed the CHSS library in 2019 — enabling the school to embark on a sport that is growing in popularity across the county.

For some time now, many colleges have had Esports at the club level and offer partial scholarships. But more and more are beginning to implement Esports programs at the varsity level, meaning more traditional sports scholarship opportunities for Esports students. In fact, NC State University just received a $16 million grant to build the largest college Esport arena in the country

But regardless of whether students go on to compete in Esports, Pitetti said, participation can open the door to career opportunities in game design, marketing, and management level creative development to name a few.

For team member Freye, getting out of the house was one major motivator in joining the team, along with the prospect of potentially getting a scholarship. “I’ve been cooped up for way too long with all this COVID stuff,” he declared.

Hurricanes Esports team member Alexis Quiroz is a senior and competes in both “Halo” and “Call of Duty” competitions.

“It’s been pretty fun hanging out with my friends,” he said, adding that “communication is the most important thing, being able to work as a team is paramount.”

If you don’t work as a team, Freye cautioned, “you are going to get smoked every single time.”

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