Under the Lights: Game 1
On the night of the Varsity’s first home game last Friday (8.27), the home crowd was buzzing. Little kids in football jerseys and "cheerleaders" were running around after a clinic held on our practice fields, adjacent to the stadium. They formed up a tunnel to high-five the players as they ran out onto the field, and as you can tell from the photo, things have gotten advanced.
We have a wonderful facility with lockerroom for the varsity, coaches’ offices and lockerroom, rooms for film and study, a kitchen with adjacent multipurpose room on the second floor, training room and patio/deck for pre/post game meals. From the photo, you can see the banner and the fog machine and the cheerleaders…. High school football isn’t the same here, even for a town itching for a decent squad in some time.
I remember running out onto our (shared) field, with its Astroturf and burning lights… it was fall and it was fantastic. This is the same feeling, but more restrained for me. Some of the coaches run (because of nerves?) but even if I’m just charting plays for the offensive coordinator, I’m feeling the exhilaration of the game.
Last week was a true thriller from the jump. WB (my team) went 3-out on the opening drive and punted. Unfortunately, as things go, the coverage was lax, the boys didn’t sprint and the other team’s returner was determined. We gave up 6 right away and that’s a killer. The offense struggled, but managed in the second quarter to fight its way down to the 10 from its best field position of the day at midfield.
Of course, things got hairy as the offensive coordinator’s headset quit working at the worst time. Coach L was working and he sprinted down to get the charger. In the mean time, we took the defensive coordinator’s and tried to get them the plays to get the ball in the end zone. On a good pass play, we would’ve scored but the third-down attempt was thrown at the WR’s feet, and we kicked a field goal. Halftime: 6-3.
The second half was still dramatic – we fought back and forth but no points landed on the board. The opponent (RC) was ranked No. 7 in its class in the state, and was predicted to wax our little team in its opener. It was not to be on this day….
Instead, WB drove down the field but was forced to punt with two minutes remaining. We pinned RC inside the 20 and the defense held strong. With :27 seconds, they punted, and we blocked and recovered on the 12. Meanwhile, another stressful situation was happening as the offensive coordinator and his assistant on the field were stressed because the two-minute drill wristbands were left in the coaches locker room. Again, Coach L sprinted off to get them, and just as they arrived on the field, the blocked punt was made, thus eliminating the need.
On first down, we ran for a few; nothing on second. A failed pass play, plus a holding call sent us back 10 yards, and then the QB rolled out to the right sideline and threw the ball as a defender was closing in. Of course, he threw to our center, which is illegal and we were further penalized setting up for a very long field goal attempt. The kick was short, and the night was over.
It’s a disappointment because despite the tough battle, what I learned from the coaching end was that so much happens outside the players’ knowledge. Many times during the game, a few players knowing what they should be doing (blocking) or how they should be lined up might have made a difference. Still, the fight was good, and the town was happy …. It might have been a moral victory for some, but a loss at the end of the day for all.
Coach W plods on and we play tonight away this time, under the lights.