A postcard fall day is one of my favorite things. That was the kind of day greeting us for the fifth game of the season. The drive to the game was pleasant under sunny skies. Fall had reached the northwest with a biting chill in the air. Gone were the short sleeves of summer, replaced with warm coats, vests, and blankets to watch the kids play football. But, the sunglasses would be required on this afternoon. It would be our second home game of the regular season. Cedar Park had been struggling during the year, so the game could be lopped sided. The drive was a familiar one, winding through tree lined road to North Creek High. Arriving early, there were families waiting for the game ahead to end. While, other families waited with anticipation for the Jags to begin their game. Moving through the crowd, I was pleasantly surprised to find my buddy waiting with his family. It was unusual to have the opportunity to talk with him before the game. We caught up with each other on our previous weeks. He then filled me in on game news and the happenings around the Jaguars. Before long, he excused himself, walking out onto the field. It was time for the kids to play under the crisp fall sunshine. There wasn’t a cloud to be found in the sky.
Parting ways with my buddy, I chose not to walk up into the bleachers and sit. Instead, walking around to find out what the other side looked like. The bleachers are sturdily built, elevated about ten feet, with about ten rows of seats. After walking around to the far side, there was no crowd, maybe one other fan standing along the fence. It looked to be a good spot to enjoy the contest. It would however require standing throughout the game again. But, the quiet of being in that far area felt appealing. Plus, if my legs became tired, there was lots of room to walk around. It felt like the ideal place to watch the game from. Another difference was my proximity to the sideline. Standing along that fence felt closer to the action than at the previous games. It was all setting up to be some enjoyable hours of football. The teams met at midfield to go over the rules and shake hands. As a crisp breeze chilled the October sunshine, we waited for the meeting to break, and play to begin.
The chat with my buddy before the game was interesting. A couple different things inside the conversation stuck out. The league had been talking about the Jaguars form of hitting. They seem to be getting the reputation for being a team which employs a firm style of tackling. This firm style of play, causing concern from their opponents. Teams appear to be uncomfortable with the prospect of playing our Jaguars. The league would be keeping an eye on a couple of our kids, hoping the pace could be eased. It was an interesting conversation to be greeted with upon entering the football facility. As the game began, it gave me ideas to ponder, and things to watch for. The situation also brought forth memories from practices of the previous year. We worked on tackling often, and players hit with intent, but it was to teach proper technique. They needed to learn were to place their shoulders and head when making contact. It was important for them to be taught how to move their head out of the way, so helmet to helmet contact didn’t happen. Our coaches always focused on the safety of contact first. One of the surprising things about coaches was understanding how much learning goes into playing football safely.
The first half of this game had a little of everything. It was the first time seeing a couple types of plays come to life. Last year we spent some time coaching kids on how to recover a fumble. The proper way to fall on a loose ball, or scoop up a bouncing ball and run with it. For the first time, I saw a Jaguar scoop up a bouncing fumbled ball and run with the ball. The play appeared seamless, as the ball bounced off the turf, being caught by a Jaguar player. The Jags then scored off the turnover. Later in the half, the Jaguars caused another turnover, this time stripping the ball out of the opposing ball carrier’s hands. The Jags created a third turnover during the first half with an interception of a Cedar Park pass attempt. On the offensive side of the ball, the Jags ran affectively, highlighted by a thirty-yard touchdown scamper. Later in the first half, our quarterback completed a pass play that went for another touchdown. The Jag quarterback also showed continued growth, with a positive scramble. The play had broken down and he calmly tucked the ball away, running for positive yardage. Ending the first half with a twenty to zero lead.
My buddy made his way over to the fence during halftime for a visit. It’s always fun to hear about the happenings with the team. He informed me that many of the starters would be sitting on the bench during the second half. However, the quarterback would continue to play through the second half. The move would keep him playing to continue continuity. It also helps him to grow with every situation he can play through. Then it was my turn to run an observation by my buddy. My eyes were telling me that the Jaguars didn’t seem to be tackling as firmly. The game appeared to be played at a calmer pace. My buddy relayed that was in deed the case. They were focusing on not hitting as firmly, while hitting lower on the opponent’s body, focusing on keeping everyone safe. The game seemed to be played at a pretty comfortable pace. It was impressive to witness the ability of the Jaguars coaching staff. In the space of one week, modifying the way they played defense. It was fun to watch this game be played.
There would only be one touchdown scored during the second half. It was a quarterback run by the Jaguars quarterback. Cedar Park continued to have trouble on offense in the second half. Similarly, to the first half, they couldn’t gain any traction moving the ball offensively. The second did seem to be a bit more evenly matched. It appeared many of the Jaguar kids who don’t play as much, got into the game for more plays than usual. As the second half continued, there was more good football being played. The game went back and forth a bit, as the late afternoon shadows crept across the field. With the sun crawling down behind the North Creek campus, wind still ruffled through the leaves. Fall was all around us, with the evening bringing a cold chill. Standing was finally starting to catch up with me a bit. With the cold making things, slightly more uncomfortable. But, the afternoon of football couldn’t have been better. When the scoreboard clock hit zero, the Jags had won another game 26-0.