Before the Menwith Hill Mustangs take the field, it’s clear who one of the leaders of this football team is.

As the boys get ready to go, La’Shawn Adams — one of the team captains and a 6-foot, 220-pound speed machine — leads the players in spirited chants to get everyone amped.

“Fire it up!” he yells.

“Fire it up!” his team responds.

It’s the last year Adams, 17, will get to do this. After four phenomenal years as a rushing powerhouse for the Mustangs, he’ll graduate this spring.

Adams was all-conference for Division III football last year, and almost got all-Europe honors, according to coach Peter Resnick. This year, he’s averaging about 200 rushing yards a game and should break 1,000 this week at Hanau.

Adams also will lead his squad against Hanau in the Division IV championships next month in Baumholder, Germany, a stage Resnick said his running back deserves.

This year, the Mustangs play nine-man ball due to their roster size. Resnick said Adams has been an example of leadership on and off the field for his younger teammates. He has not only helped them adjust to a slightly different game, but also has shown them how to handle DODDS competition and all that entails.

Adams is an old hand at navigating the travel required of U.K. schools, and at maintaining the grades necessary to be eligible to play, Resnick said.

“That’s something most kids don’t know,” he said. “It’s been wonderful to see him grow and develop over the years.”

Adams said it’s the responsibility of upperclassmen like him to keep the younger guys focused.

“We have to,” he said. “If we don’t focus them up, they’ll be lackadaisical.”

The Clover, S.C., native said he wants to get all-Europe honors this year, balancing his own ambition with the nurturing of younger players.

“In practice, we try and teach them different things,” Adams said. “Even if they mess up, we tell them, ‘Hey, you tried.’”

That kinship is apparent in games, too, as Adams helped one player with his helmet and hollered support after leaving the game once the Mustangs secured a 42-21 win against the Alconbury Dragons last week.

While his last season as a Mustang is a bit bittersweet, Adams said he’s hoping to play college ball somewhere in the Carolinas or Texas next fall.

The team will miss Adams when he’s gone, Resnick said.

“To have him go all these years, it’s so special,” Resnick said.

“And it’s the first time Menwith Hill has been in a championship game. I’m glad he gets to be seen in a championship.”

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