One of the most challenging things in sports is backing up a good performance. The team can experience letdown following a significant victory. Gaining the top spot of our league could lead to this letdown. It’s possible for our team to feel they’ve accomplished their goal. Following our game to earn the first-place position, we played a team with one loss. It was a game which could result in a tie for the league lead. A loss would have left both teams with one loss and given our opponent momentum from knocking off the league giant. We played the game away from our home field. The morning found me traveling south again. Making my way to the same high school we played at the week prior. This week playing under non-threatening skies. Even with the sun shining you could begin feeling fall in the air. The same nervous excitement ran through my body arriving for the game. Walking into the stadium our kids were gathering on the near side of the bleachers. The usually greetings took place, as time neared to begin warming-up our players.
Usually the players begin warming long before our game. Normally we start during the beginning of the prior game. Before this game warm-ups felt like a mini practice. The team began by separating into position groups. While in those position groups, the players went through some contact drills to prepare. Following abbreviated contact drills, the team came back together. To finish warming-up, coach ran the kids through some offensive sets worked on in practice. He then ran the defense through some things worked on during our week. By game time, our players had been reminded of the weeks’ preparation. The game before ended with excitement, as a younger team from our program secured a win. We gathered our things, moving onto our sideline to begin.
During this game my responsibility remained consistent from the week before. I was again helping with sending offensive plays into the quarterback. The game began with something unexpected. This team was able to play with us. We found early it could become a difficult game. We were hit early by losing one of our players to injury. Our running back came around the corner of our offensive line and was met with a big hit. There was helmet to helmet contact forcing our him out of the game. He was unable to return due to possible head trauma. As a result, we needed someone to take his place in the back field. Luckily, our team is full of many good athletes. This situation was going to be slightly different from the previous week, with no time to truly prepare someone before the game. One of our linebackers was also our back-up running back. However, I had yet to see him play consistently at that position in a game.
Much of our time practicing, we work with the starters in their positions. Repetition seems important for our kids to truly become comfortable with offensive plays. The result becomes starters practicing on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Players don’t have much opportunity to work at their backup positions. There just isn’t enough time or players to run through all those positions. So, our linebacker went in at running back without many practice repetitions in the position. He played a really good game being thrust into the situation. There continued to be support from the coaches. Focusing on our back-up running back as he lined up for each play. Our coach would verbally let him know if he was in the correct position before the play began, also reminding him of the direction to run once the ball was snapped. It seemed to be a lot of information, but the running back picked it up well. Following instruction in an awesome manner. There wasn’t any way to run for him, but being such a good athlete, he knew what to do when he got the ball. He played so well at running back, halfway through the second half coach proclaimed we found our new full back. Giving him a position in the starting back field when the starting running back returned the following week.
We were challenged in this game. Our opponent was able to score with us into the second half. They had been running through our defense. A defense which hadn’t given up many points or yards to this point. In the second half with our opponent down one point, we reached a crucial time in our season. It seemed the defense was required to shut down their offense before momentum shifted. Many times, during sports we seem to feel these crucial moments. The defense stood their ground. Suddenly turning into the defense we’ve grown accustom to watching. Over a series of plays around midfield, with a pause in the action from an opponent’s timeout, they put a stop to the momentum, getting the ball back for our offense. It was a gutsy performance that saved our season. With the momentum shifting back our way, the offense took over. They took the game into their hands. Before we knew it, the one point lead turned into a comfortable two touchdown lead. The final few minutes were played with the game in hand. The undefeated season our kids are piecing together remained in tacked.
Our team backed up their performance from the prior week. Working through unforeseen adversity, which seems to happen with each game. They fought through the loss of their starting running back. But, witnessed his back-up come in to perform admirably. A defense which hasn’t been put to the test much, was put to the test. That defense stood their ground, defending and continuing the improbable undefeated season. Now it’s on to the next game. The following week to be played against another team looking to take down the league giant. It would be the second-place team. This time the game will be played at home. Another chance to defend our number 1 rank and continue the undefeated season.