BY Austin Hill
“We win this and we’re in the playoffs.”
This was said by one of the assistant coaches during a pre-game drill. It was then that most of the team realized how monumental the game we were entering really was. It was homecoming after all, but that wasn’t the least bit important. This game was about winning for us, rather than the school.
Upon finishing our pre-game ritual, we trotted off the field. The locker room atmosphere was solemn. “Defense up first.” yelled someone who returned from the coin flip. For nearly 15 minutes then, we waited, focusing on the task ahead of us. Some put their earbuds in to listen to music, others sat silently, going over plays in their heads.
Out of the tranquility emerges Joe’s voice. The team captain, sidelined for the remainder of the season because of an injury the preceding game, says he has something to tell the team. It was obvious that he was a well respected figure, as it didn’t take long for everyone to gather and descend to one knee in front of him.
He said that he had never expected it to happen to him. He explained that last week, in Cincinnati, he would have never envisioned that that was his last time dressing up as a Spartan. He instructed us to give this game our all, as it could as well been any of our last games at the whim of chance. He even disclosed to us that he cried all night when he found out he would miss at least six weeks. He cried and cried and cried, but then, he smiled. He smiled because he believed that this team was capable of making it to the playoffs, and by then, his injury would have healed, and he’d be guaranteed one last time on the field. This game was monumental.
We came back into the locker room down 28-12. We realized that we were playing a team much more talented than their record (0-3) indicated and that we were playing against the referees. Our offense was plagued by detrimental penalties, and the refs even gave Cleveland Heights an extra down, which we proved on film, that led to a touchdown.
However, despite the circumstances, the team remained focused during the break. You would have expected that the coach had given a fiery speech to motivate us to turn the tide, but you’d be wrong. Coach Harder was as calm as he’d ever be, and just made minor adjustments like with any other game at halftime. To any oblivious observer, it would be glaring that we were used to this situation. Although it isn’t exactly a desirable title, we are a second-half team.
And that is exactly what we proved. Outscoring our opponent 28-0 following half-time, I recognized that at our heart, we love being the underdog. It fuels us and it is what has driven this season thus far. Every week, the Blade attempts to predict high school games in its “Friday Forecast,” and if even one analyst chooses against us, his projection is circled and hung on the locker room door.
After the game, coach told us to take our shoulder pads and cleats off to meet him in the gym for something “special.” Now, on the TPS budget, we didn’t really get anything special, but instead he led us to the athletic hallway in front of the wall where all the plaques hang. He explained that there is an empty space just for us now that City League play is about to begin. He clarified that we were now 0-0, and all of our goals resided in the next five weeks.
Contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org