Students from Lambert High School recently won both fall Esports State Championships in December. The games the team won were Rocket League, like soccer but with flying cars instead of players, and League of Legends, a multiplayer game that focuses on battle arena tactics and fighting.
Lambert’s esports coach, Kevin Sapp, said Lambert has competed in every state championship that Georgia has hosted for esports, being the only high school in the state to do so since PlayVS announced that esports teams and competitions would be coming to high schools across the nation.
“We’ve kind of got a little dynasty going here,” Sapp said.
Sapp said Lambert has three teams of three players for Rocket League and two teams of five players for League of Legends, with alternating subs in case students are unable to play. Most of the teams’ practices are online where the students practice maneuvers like attacking and dodging.
Nate Benson, a junior at Lambert and Rocket League team captain, said he started playing Rocket League about a year and a half ago and liked that the game was based on skill and had no RNG, a random number generator that is used to determine random events in a game, such as chances of landing a critical hit or picking up a rare item.
Benson decided to join the Lambert esports team after hearing that the team previously won runner up in the championships.
“I thought maybe I could help out the team and be what they needed to have to actually win the state title, so that’s what ended up happening,” Benson said.
In the esports state championships in fall of 2020, Rocket League won 4-1 against Forsyth Central High School, Lambert’s rival team that beat them in the tournament last year.
“For me, obviously [winning the championship] felt great, but it felt even better for my teammates,” Benson said.
Benson said since winning the state championship, he has reached out to Ultimate Gaming Championship, or UGC, to find teams across the east coast to play online and hone Lambert’s Rocket League skills.
About 16 teams competed along the east coast, with Lambert coming in the Top 10. He said that he is speaking with UGC to host a competition on the west coast so that someday top teams across the country can play each other in “nationals.”
Pranav Devabhaktuni, a junior at Lambert, is the team captain for Lambert’s League of Legends team. Devabhaktuni said he began to play League of Legends in middle school and quickly climbed the ranks online.
“I thought [the esports team] would just be like a cool thing to try out and join the team, and I fell in love with it, all my teammates were awesome, and it was … a fun experience so I kept playing,” Devabhaktuni said.
He said that League of Legends competes with five-person teams consisting of a Top Laner (bruiser/tank), Mid Laner (typically assassin roles), a Jungler (looter), Attack Damage Carry (ADC) and Support.
Like Rocket League, one of the most important facets of League of Legends is the ability for teammates to communicate.
“Even if you’re like super good, it doesn’t matter much if you can’t work well with your teammates, because teamwork is kind of very important, just like in traditional sports,” Devabhaktuni said.
Devabhaktuni said he and his teammates spent time before the state championship watching their rivals’ gameplays and taking note of what certain players liked to do in battle.
“It was really awesome, especially leading this team to a state championship. It was really like an amazing experience, especially since we managed to beat our rivals who beat us last time in the state championship,” Devabhaktuni said.
Lambert High School beat Northview 2-0 in League of Legends in the state championship.
The next steps for Devabhaktuni and his team include staying focused and staying dedicated to training so they can win the state championship this spring.
“It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of dedication from these guys. They put a lot of work into it, and I’m super proud of them,” Sapp said.
Esports has two seasons -- one in the fall and one in the spring – unlike traditional sports.
Sapp said how proud he was of his teams for winning the fall state championships in December, and he said he is thankful for Lambert’s principal, Dr. Gary Davidson, and athletic director Drew Ferrer.
“[Davidson and Ferrer have] been behind us 100% since this started,” Sapp said. “They’re always there behind us to give us a real good backing from administration.”
Lambert High School will compete again in the Esports State Championship this spring.