Just an afternoon of above average high school sports and time with friends. At least that is what I thought going in. I had the privilege of attending the Division 1A – 2010 Maryland State Football Championship game at Ravens Stadium two weekends ago and was blown away. Not by the wind, but by the talent level displayed on the field. It was a brisk, sunny Saturday afternoon, perfect football weather day. Havre DeGrace Warriors vs. Dunbar Poets – the young lads are playing for a trophy and bragging rights, hmmmmmmm…..yes but no. The game and afternoon ended up being much more than that.
I get an e-mail from one of my “inner circle” families, “Are you free on Saturday, Robbie is playing in the State Championship football game.” Yes, the kid I blew up an inner tube for, so he could float safely in 3 foot of water at the ocean because he could not touch bottom, is now playing offensive and defensive line for his high school football team on the Ravens field. I swear it was like two years ago, when I blew up that tube. You all know that “time is flying by” feeling. Sure, I’ll go watch some football in it’s purest and basic form. I’ll go cheer with maybe 100 or so Havre DeGrace fans and watch the teams run, run, gang tackle, short pass – punt. Well that’s not exactly how it happened, I was pleasantly surprised of what transpired.
HDG traveled well, we’re talking 13-15 buses, with Marching Band in tow. Family, friends and alumni filled up a good 6-8 sections of the lower bowl on the visitors/sun side, 800+ fans. Dunbar had about 1/2 that on the Ravens/shade side. Still a larger crowd than I had anticipated of the HDG and Dunbar faithful. They had traveled to support the young lads they had been watching since Pop Warner. A game those boys had worked their butts off to get to. You could see it in their eyes. You could see it in the warm-ups.You could feel the energy in the stadium.
The teams filed out for warm-ups. First reaction, “oh-my gosh (well those weren’t my exact words) – those kids are huge. They weren’t that big when I played.” Second reaction, “Where is the rest of the team?” The HDG Warriors had like 30 players. Dunbar – a good 50. Warm-ups consisted of some grunting, yelling, fist pumps, chants, pad smacks, specialty run-throughs, center of field pep talk….all that good down home, traditional football pre-game bonding. Fans and players were starting to get anxious, the National Anthem was played by the HDG Marching Band, boom – let’s play some football.
First play from scrimmage – anything but basic – HDG attempts a flea flicker. I see this perfectly executed play, the football thrown in a tight spiral 50 yards down the field, the ball lands a couple yards past the outstretched hands of the WR that just ran a 5.0 forty. There was decent blocking, helmets crashing together, bodies flying, Dunbar held their ground, “Oh-my gosh (once again – those really weren’t my exact words) these boys can play.” The game only got better. You could clearly see the reason these two teams were in the position they were, playing for the State Championship. HDG dominated the first half, score of 12-0. Dunbar dominated the second half and ended up winning the game 22-12. Yes, the score mattered. But what was much more impressive to me, was the way these kids played, with the passion and basic love for the game.
The talent level varied amongst the players, many playing both ways. Never wanting to come out – remember those days? There were big kids (how does 6′-5″, 270 sound?), larger yet – Dunbar had three young lads over 300 lbs., you kiddin’ me? There were small kids, medium-sized kids, slow kids, swift kids, bumbling kids and the next level of athletic kids. Speaking of the next level, I have to point out the QB for HDG, Darin Washington. Remember that name, the potential is there. All these kids joined together as part of a team trying to fulfill a common goal. The logo/motto of this 3 day event down at the stadium was – Respect the Game. It was rewarding to see that from both teams and coaching staffs.
Bottom line – Get Back to the Basics. It’s all about the kids man. Your kids, someone else’s kids, your grand kids, it’s simple – they remind us. Whether it’s sporting event, a play, an academic achievement, an art show, a concert, their willingness to try, it just doesn’t matter – support them, then support them again. I highly recommend attending any one of the previous events I have just mentioned, even if you do not have direct involvement with any of the participants. I am grateful that my daughter, family and friends have blessed me with that opportunity.
I went to a high school football game and came out with a better heart. Now go blast “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – (Guns and Roses). Go thank the kids for their efforts, tell them you may not be to crazy about some of their decision making, try and stay on the right path, question what in the world were they thinking and finally ………… “you only learn by doing.” God bless ’em.