One Last Try
Most of the choices we make in life are our own decision, but as a child sometimes decisions are made for us. In my case, football was a decision made for me. I was entering third grade and weighed all of 100 lbs. Granted I was a decent sized kid compared to everyone else, but I really had no interest in playing football. The thought of being hit by another person, for some reason, didn't intrigue me very much. Either way, my dad saw to it that I played on the Pee Wee football team. I hated going out for it because it meant I had to get naked around a lot of other kids and be closer to guys than I ever was before, but I guess in the end ol' Dad knew what he was doing once again.
Pee Wee Football
Pee Wee football was basically only a way to make the school a little extra money and give the parents memories, but as I look back now, I think I learned 50% of the fundamentals of football during my entire Pee Wee career. I can remember the first day of Pee Wee football like it was yesterday. Each of us went into a dark room that had no light with flashlights to help our coach find pads that would fit onto our scrawny bodies. We came out with knee pads, shoulder pads and cups. The first day of practice must have been so much fun to watch from the coaches eyes. Nobody had a clue what they were doing. It was like getting an extra recess. Because I was big for my age I started right off the bat. Our first year went well. We won 5 out of 8 games, but we were disappointed because we thought we should win all of them. The year passed and the next rolled around. Now I was in 4th grade. Six boys in my class were now on the football team and all of us were starters. That year we learned a little more about the game and were even more solid as a group. We won 6 out of 8 games, but the games we won, we won by at least 21 points per. I had gained a little more weight by then and was starting on the offensive line and defensive line. When 5th grade rolled around we had 7 boys in our class playing and all of them starting. There were also 3 starters in the grade above us that had been with us through the previous two seasons and 4 starters in the grade below that had been with us the previous season, so we had a very solid team that year. Even so, we still only won 6 out of 8 games, but all were complete blowouts. 6th grade rolled around and we had the best team we had ever had. We had a new coach and had mastered the offense. It seemed like we scored a touchdown off of a RB Sweep every game at least twice. There were 7 boys in my class that started on both sides of the ball. We literally played every down. We knew each others weaknesses and tendencies so it made for a very well oiled machine. I know it's only Pee Wee football, but we could have contended with several Junior Varsity squads back then. I, myself weighed about 180lbs and I was one of the smaller boys. We ended up winning 7 out of 8 games and also played a little on the Junior Varsity team. Since Pee Wee football wasn't really what everyone wanted to come and watch on a Tuesday evening the next year is what really got people excited because it meant those 7 starters that had been together for 4 years were moving up to Junior High to compete with the other 4 starters they had played with for 3 years prior.
Junior Varsity Football
Entering 7th grade meant contending at a higher level, lifting weights and learning more complex plays and schemes and we were ready for it. Our class had always outshined the grades above us so a lot of jealousy reined down upon us, people telling us that we couldn't have the same success at a higher contending level. So there was only one thing to do, prove them wrong.
There were only two exceptionally strong players in our grade which was our running back and myself. I owe a lot of my talent and skills to that fellow running back for always pushing me and competing with me. We entered into 7th grade and both of us started out bench pressing 145lbs. By the season's end we were both benching 245lbs. The first year of Junior Varsity was a little strenuous because we had to recover that chemistry we once had together. We won only 6 out of 10 games that year, but knew we would be better the next year. In our school you could play Junior Varsity up until your 9th grade year. 9th graders also played High School football, but were only allowed to play a total of 6 quarters per week between Junior and High School games.
When 8th grade rolled around we seemed to have it together. We all knew that we could win every game if we wanted. The only problem was dealing with teenage hormones. My running back friend and I were both benching 265lbs starting the season and squatting 450lbs which was great for only 14 year old kids. Our strength carried over to the football field especially on defense. It seemed like we hurt someone every game and that helped us win some games. We would concentrate on the key players and hit them as hard as we could. Even if we didn't hurt them, we would hit them so hard that they acted hurt or winded and their coach would give the ball to someone less effective. We won 6 out of 8 games that year, but I think all of us were really just looking forward to the next year.
As the next season rolled around I had an idea in my head. I had watched our running back get pummeled because he had no lead back to clear the way, so I set out to gain more speed and lose a little weight and maintain my strength. I dropped down to 160lbs, but maintained my strength and increased my speed by leaps and bounds. I ended up playing a lot of fullback, but would also play offensive line because I was still the strongest of everyone. I would switch jersey numbers throughout the game for certain plays. It was a big ordeal, but it payed off. We now had 9 boys in my class who started on both sides of the ball. The division only had 8 teams, but that year one of the teams failed to fill their roster and had to forfeit all their games. We had just finished destroying the 6th team of the season and had won every game by a margin of at least 3 touchdowns. Most of us were out of the game by the third quarter so we could help the High School squad out. When the 7th game rolled around everyone was nervous because this meant doing something that no other team had done before. We could go undefeated. The biggest thing that made everyone nervous is that we were going to an area that was known for cheating. Most of the referees were local or even player's fathers. Still, we strapped up and made the two hour trip.
Going for 7/7
The first play of our final regular season game was a end around sweep. I was playing fullback, lead blocking for my fellow running back. The play went for a 60 yard touchdown. The once very loud crowd was silenced. It was one of the most fun moments I can remember while playing football. The opposing team was also going for an undefeated streak so their hopes were high also. The score was 8-0. When the opposing team got the ball we pummeled them. They gained 3 yards and had to punt. Our running back fielded the punt and with our well coordinated blocking, he ran it back all the way for a touchdown. We were now up 16-0. With tensions high and it only being the first quarter the referees started interfering in our dominance. Throughout the rest of the game we were bombarded with countless penalties, but it seemed like we were being held on defense every time yet no flags were thrown. Even so we still continued to massacre the other team. I had broken my hand the previous week, but didn't notice it until 3 days before this game so it was wrapped in a foam cast. The cast provided for less impact on my forearm, so I used it to my advantage. I could hit people harder because it wouldn't leave bruises and figured that the bone was already broke, so what harm could I bring to myself. The penalties had angered me and everyone else so I took it upon myself to do something about it. The opposing team had pulled ahead 29 to 24 and now had the ball with only 5 minutes left to go in the game. As I said before I was mad. They snapped the ball. From my defensive end position I bolted into the backfield and speared the quarterback as hard as I could. He fumbled the ball, but they still recovered, but he didn't get up. The team trainers came and lifted him to his feet after they decided he was too injured to carry on so in comes the back up quarterback. In my mind I figured, "Well certainly they aren't going to pass on the first play with this fresh quarterback." I saw that the opposite side of the line was the largest part of the field. After I figured out they were going to run it, I knew they were going to run it to that side. I motioned to my buddy to switch sides with me because I knew the play. Sure enough they ran it right towards me and I promise I could see the poor running backs eyes as he received the ball from the quarterback. I ran at an angle where I knew I could put a good lick on him. As he neared the sideline I caught him. We collided so hard that we both rolled to the outer fence. I sprang to my feet a little shaken, but the running back didn't. In fact, he never did. So now their starting running back and quarterback were out. It would not affect the game much since we were getting the ball back, but it was my little statement showing that I knew they were trying to cheat us. They punted the ball to us. Our returner fumbled the catch, but luckily recovered it. We were on the 45 yard line with 1:08 seconds left. We ran a pass play and caught the pass which resulted in a 30 yard gain, but oddly enough there was a penalty on us for pass interference. So we were backing up 15 yards to our own 30 at least until our coach had a couple words for the referee who threw the flag. I believe he said something along the lines of "Aww ref that's Bull Malarkey." Ok so he didn't say Malarkey. You get it. So now we tacked on 15 more yards. If that wasn't enough, they started to roll the clock on us. We now had only 38 seconds to score. On our 15 yard line, our coach was clueless as to which play to call. We had been running one particular play in practice which was mainly just for fun, but I'll be danged if the assistant coach didn't say hey coach, why don't you run this play. So up comes the halfback pass play. By the time we snapped the ball there were only 18 seconds left on the clock. The quarterback dropped back as to pass, but then tossed the ball out to my good friend, the running back. I'm running from my fullback position and can remember blocking 3 or 4 people in all. I was thinking to myself that this play had to work because I just took out half of their team. Sure enough everyone thought it was a run. As the running back trotted out towards the sideline we had a receiver 50 yards down the field with no one closer than 25 yards to him. The ball went airborn. That is the last thing I saw because I was engaged in blocking a player. I can remember turning towards our fans and seeing them all standing, screaming with joy. As I turned towards the scoreboard our receiver was in the end zone with the ball. The game clock was at zero and the score read 30-29 with no flags. In the end I think the referees admired our play too much to cheat us out of that play. After celebrating briefly we all went over to the opponents, shook their hands and said "Good Game". There was no disappointment in their eyes. They knew what had happened and they had still lost.