WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita East High School Blue Aces have had a season to remember, led by head coach Ene Akpan, who is the first-ever African-American head football coach to clinch a city league title.
“Just one of the first ones to have the opportunity, and that they finally gave us the opportunity to be a head coach. I seized it, and we finally got one,” he said.
His latest success has come with challenges that primarily only coaches who look like him tend to go through.
“I remember a time I was told that we just don’t put the same amount of work in as being a head coach, a black head coach, so we took some offense to that,” Akpan said. “I don’t think we were respected or looked upon. We were probably looked at like thugs or just looked at differently.”
He says despite having to deal with mistreatment from his counterparts during his coaching career, he takes pride in being able to not only coach a winning team but to represent other schools like East.
“We’re putting those inner city schools back on the map, and we’re Wichita. We’re dead center in the middle. We’re trying to make sure that everybody knows that we’re here to stay,” Akpan said.
Win, lose, or draw, Akpan says what he is most proud of is the ability to help shape and grow young athletes into being good men and contributors to the community.
“I dreamed of being a head coach when I was in high school, and I didn’t have anybody that looked like me as a head coach. So I’m appreciative that we get the opportunities to put these kids in the melting pot and see them blossom,” he said.
The Blue Ace take on Washburn Rural in the 6-A state football sectionals, which is also a rematch from week one of the regular season, where East lost by one 26-25.