Shawnee High School registered its first eSports program victory on Sept. 28 with a 4-3 win over Middletown North, the team’s first week of official action.
The victory came in Super Smash Bros., one of three games the approximately 25 co-ed team members play on a weekly basis against other schools in the state. According to Garden State Esports, the game’s official organization, matches take place weekly, with Rocket League being the designated game on each Tuesday. Super Smash Bros is played on Wednesday and League of Legends on Thursday.
The team was established this season thanks to grant funding, according to coach Philip Langan. The money enabled the district to create a room with necessary team equipment like gaming computers and controllers for the relatively new sport.
Shawnee’s first eSports victory, Langan said, was quite the thrill.
“It’s been very exciting and it’s still brand new, so it’s been a cool thing to be a part of as a coach,” Langan said. “We’re still figuring a lot of things out as we go, since that’s how new it is, but it’s been exciting to get a new program started and see such a strong interest from the students early on.”
Jonathan Chin, Cameron Penz and Jake Lentz contributed to the victory for Shawnee. Lentz, a junior, first learned that the eSports team was forming last year after seeing flyers hanging around the school. Having played Super Smash Bros. growing up, he was excited to join the team.
Lentz won the deciding match that clinched the victory for the Renegades, something that he said he wasn’t nervous about going into the match-deciding game.
“I didn’t really think about it at all going in about it being that important of a game, I usually just play to play to the game itself,” Lentz said. “But it’s funny when I think back and reflect on it now.”
According to Garden State Esports, Shawnee plays an eight-week regular season that began on Sept. 26 and continued to Nov. 25. Playoffs start the week of Nov. 28, with the finals scheduled to take place at Rider University.
Langan and his team are aiming high.
“That’s the goal; we want to go to the finals,” he said. “That would be awesome for our first year as a program. I’ve already told the kids, if we just practice hard and do well like I know we can, we can make it to the playoffs and hopefully the finals after that.
“The first week felt a little rushed for sure, but we have a pretty comfortable setup now and are familiar with what we’re doing after getting through the first two weeks or so now,” Langan added. “We’re just getting better and better each week as we’re still getting our name out there in eSports.”