Sunday, May 11, 2003

Random high school football memories

Yes, I actually played football in high school. I even started after the debacle of my freshman year. Of course, it's easy to be a starter on a team that had 16 players. The high school I attended was called Glen Lake High School in Maple City, MI.

As a freshman I was a running back which was probably one of the worst coaching decisions in the history of organized sport. I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing and our coaching staff didn't know how to teach me. The varisty coach, Sherman Greider, used to scrimmage the junior varsity against his varsity team because the team was so small they had no one to pummel but the JV squad between games. I remember one practice I took a hand off and hit the middle and the senior middle lineback, Cliff Both, who was a man gave this freshman boy a helmet to helmet shot that sent panicked messages of alarm to every cell of my body. Every time that horrendous memory comes to me I thank god I can walk.

As sophomore I once scored two touchdowns in one game while playing wide receiver. The first was a short pass that I turned up field and split the defense, the second was a bomb I caught over my shoulder and then I ran like hell. I remember the varsity coach (who was new that year and knew what he was doing and brought in a staff that knew what it was doing) came to me before practice Monday and told me that he might consider giving me a shot at the varsity squad. I think I must have looked terrified because he never brought it up again.

I don't remember a lot of particulars of my junior-year football season. I do remember a cool photograph of me that appeared in the yearbook. The picture is of our quarterback, Greg Atkinson, running outside for a touchdown. You see a wide receiver wearing the number 88 from behind and he's throwing block on the opposing team's defensive back so Greg can scamper untouched into the endzone. The wide receiver? Me, of course.

My senior year offered me the biggest heartbreak I have ever experienced playing sports. With a team of 16, where most starters played offense and defense, we made the playoffs. We played the game during a snowstorm against a team called Beal City. They beat us 8-0. Their only score was on a long run that shouldn't have happened. Because of the weather we couldn't move the ball and neither could they. It should have gone into overtime where each team gets the ball at the ten yard line and you play it like extra innings in baseball. But it didn't. A couple of missed tackles and, boom, your season and football career is over. It's been a while since I have talked to any of my teammates about that game but I am certain not a single one of us has forgotten the sickening pain of losing our first and last football playoff game.

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