Saturday, November 4, 2023

All Good Things...

These guys at 8th grade

These guys as seniors and district champs!

Last night my son stepped on and off the high school football field for the last time as an athlete. He and his group of 26 fellow seniors had an epic ride that started in their elementary and middle school days. In hindsight the journey feels unbelievably fast, too fast. I feel truly lucky, grateful, blessed to have been able to walk this part of the journey with my son, maybe reliving some of what it felt like from my high school playing experience. I am experiencing a lot of feelings right now: joy and amazement at my son and his fellow seniors and their up-and-coming teammates accomplished this year, but also tremendous sadness and a sense of loss as this is the first day of "moving on" from this epic journey. 

Yeah, there are tears.

There are so many memories and so many awesome people who came into my life as a part of this: my coaching brothers and the super supportive, and super fun, parent group of friends are people I hope to find some new adventures with. I mean how many parent groups take a party bus to a further away game?! 

There are a number of other big on-the-field memories from this group as well (and worthy of a couple html bullets): 
  • The epic 8th grade Bloomington v. Bloomington playoff game that went to overtime and solidified that this was an amazing group with a lot of heart. 
  • The Covid year freshman game at Chaska in whiteout blizzard conditions. 
  • The flag-a-palooza against Hastings last year where we ran and scored on the same play several times in a row due to flag-happy refereeing. 
  • And finally, what I hope will be referred to as "the drive", the 92-yard fourth quarter drive (more like ground assault) to score, take the lead and get the win against a rejuvenated Apple Valley team in our section semifinal. 
Inside all of this is also a passion for coaching and sharing my love of the game. I loved coaching this group through their middle school years. Seasons go fast and it is so fun to see when things click for the kids. I believe there's so much to learn about ourselves and how to handle success and failure in this sport, both individually and as a team. How to challenge ourselves and how to work towards common goals. I don't think there's a part of me that didn't learn from playing and is still learning from coaching.  

Digressing now that my fixation on my ordering, sentence structure and grammar has stymied some of the feels and tears. 

There were a lot of parallels with my career from playing the same position on the offensive line to working with a core group of seniors to bring a team from losing records to an amazing ride of an 8 win 2 loss record in our senior years. Honestly, I think I did define myself a bit more of a "football jock" than my son does, but ultimately we both just loved having the opportunity to play. As "O" linemen we aren't a flashy breed, we let our good work show through in the successes of our ball carrying teammates and our recognition is usually a, sometimes token, footnote in any press. And that's totally okay, we know what we did or didn't do.

My hope is that my son, and as many of the group as possible, keep partaking in football beyond watching it on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and the occasional Thursday, and Monday and was there a Tuesday night game this last week? Playing in college is being discussed lightly in our house but we will see. College football was a profound experience for me and even at the D3 level it's another level of work. I still loved it, but it is a distinctly different era of my playing in my mind. If I have football dreams at night, they are about college two-a-days 😳

Ultimately, this was an amazing ride. Like all but the state champions, we ended with a loss. I have my opinions on hand-picked private school teams being considered "equal" (seriously MSHL, wtf?), but there were enough mistakes on our side that kept victory out of reach. We knew we'd have to play near perfect as you have to do moving further into the playoffs and that didn't happen. Still as the game progressed the offense found ways to move the football. A bad play call (opinion of the writer and probably many others) on the 4 yard line, after a good drive supported by a big play, near halftime and resulting in an interception on a trick play. We didn't need a trick play. We spent our entire season making habit of blocking and running hard and I have full confidence we would have scored in that manner. 

Okay, momentary rant done.

Beyond the end I think all expectations were exceeded. I am so proud of my son and this group. I am absolutely enamored and hope we (players and parents and family) find ways to remember and celebrate this era. My momentary sadness and sense of loss will turn to fond memories and hopefully a continued sense of building community and football here in Bloomington. Go Jags!

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