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high school football postseason

Hungry for Postseason Ball

The trees are shedding, the sod is crunchy, the air is crisp, sometimes cold.

It is the season of gathering.

Now through December — in communities small and large — folks will gather together in thanks and appreciation for all they’ve been given.

Hungry for the seasonal bounty of Thanksgiving, yes. But also for the seasonal bounty of football. For casseroles, cobblers, turkeys and trimmings. And for region champs, underdogs, tailgates and trophies.

The holidays and high school playoffs have arrived. The season of gathering is upon us.

Select stadiums, in rapidly diminishing quantities, are serving up well-seasoned teams in high-stakes games.  And the crowds gather…

They gather ’round brackets on web sites and print, plotting their next month of Friday Night Lights. Hungry.

They gather in field house conference room chairs, burning the midnight oil, HUDL screens and whiteboards at hand. Hungry.

They gather in position rooms watching their film, correcting, perfecting their skill sets each day. Hungry.

They gather on practice fields in cold gear and sleeves, sweating through fundys and scout team and reps. Hungry.

They gather in pass gate and ticket booth lines, wrapping ’round buildings and down city streets. Hungry.

They gather on bleachers in gloves, scarves, and hats, fueled with concessions and love for their team. Hungry.

They gather in student sections, dressed for a theme, painted and cheering, 12th man on each play. Hungry.

They gather in marching band sectional rows, percussion and woodwinds, plus brass and the guard. Hungry.

They gather for tumbling runs, pyramids, cheers, with megaphones, pompoms and sideline school spirit. Hungry.

They gather in tunnels, behind hand-painted signs, with big-game jerseys and game faces on. Hungry.

They gather on the fifty with officials in stripes, silver coin flipping through energized air. Hungry.

They gather with coaches for some last-minute love… some fist-bumping, chest-thumping last-minute love. Hungry.

And then, finally. Finally the game buzzer sounds.

And finally, the glittering helmets — the waxed fruit of autumn — spill onto the field into kickoff formation beneath the gleaming-hot Friday Night Lights and the crowd holds its collective breath. Hungry.

Yes, the holidays and playoffs have arrived. The season of gathering is upon us.

May the coin toss be ever in our favor. May we all stay healthy. And may we all stay Hungry.

(feature photo cred: Cathy Sharpe)

Legends of the Fall and the Alchemy of Football

This weekend was a tough loss. I don’t know that I’ve ever been as invested in a group of players and coaches’ families like I have been with this group. And it’s been three years of continuous wins. Of glorious, riotous, practically-perfect wins. And Friday night hurt. And if it hurt me – a marginal member of a legendary football dynasty — I can’t imagine the pain of the players and coaches. Although I did bear witness to it. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let me tell you what I see and know about these boys and their leaders.

For the past two years, from the stands and practice fields, I’ve witnessed this team pour all of everything they have into the game, purifying their sweat and blood and spinning it into gold. And purple. Because these athletes are alchemists. They have transformed common elements of a typical Friday night under the lights into the stuff of legend. They are legend.

And I’m not talking individual legend – though we have that too. We have region and state and national legends among this team. But, no, I’m talking legends of discipline and legends of character. I’m talking quality of soul and purity of heart. They are good fellows, the whole lot.

They own and are the stuff of legends. And victory was theirs. For so many seasons

And then, last night, it all ended in seconds. And in silence.

And the loss was so sudden and so heavy and so hard.

And what I saw after, in the belly of a field house they’ve called home half a year every year for their high school careers – a field house witness to half-time harangues, post-game heroes, and now postseason heartache – was the purest pain I’ve ever borne witness to. Players wrapping themselves up in the arms of their football family for strength and support. Searching for a way to handle the hurt. To shoulder the hurt. To weather the hurt. Padded shoulder pressed to padded shoulder, coaches patting heads and rocking giant bodies while whispering words of comfort and wisdom… and love.

This team knows love. The fans love them. The community loves them. And we are all hurting with them.  But those coaches have a different love for their players — a love unfathomable to those of us who have never played the sport. But I see glimpses of it from the practice field and the sidelines and the field house. I see its power. I see how it builds confidence and character and futures.

Yes, these boys know love. And they know disciple and determination and how to win big. And now they know how to lose big.

And I know this loss – with its devastating, season-ending sting, a sting they will always feel somewhere deep in the marrow of their being –  will prove valuable to these players and their coaches alike.

Because football is truly an alchemist’s sport. And it gives players the skills to transform baser matters into gold – and this loss, this harshest of base matters, is their biggest challenge yet. But they have what it takes to sift and sort through the pain and then forge ahead into the brightest of bright, golden futures. They have the stuff. The stuff of legends.

Your fans are in awe of you, Hurricanes. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for showing us how you spin sweat, blood, and tears into purple and gold.

*Huge photo creds to Cathy Sharpe, Cartersville Purple Hurricanes sideline photographer for capturing this beautiful cover shot.

It’s the Most Wonderful Ball of the Year: a Postseason Sing-Along

championshipprayer

It’s the most wonderful ball of the  year

With the brackets all forming

And top-seeds all donning their jerseys and gear

It’s the most wonderful ball of the year

 

It’s the most treacherous postseason ball

Proven dynasties going, some underdogs showing

With some bound to fall

It’s the most treacherous postseason ball

 

They’ll be one seeds for hosting

And die-hard fans boasting

And painted torsos for the teams

You’ll see hurry-up offenses,

stout, hard-nosed defenses,

coaching staff powerhouse schemes

 

It’s the most wonderful ball of the year

With those shotgun formations and smash mouth foundations

And Winners-Take-All

It’s the most wonderful ball of the year

 

There’ll be uprights for splitting

And ‘backers for hitting

and running backs rarin’ to go

There’ll be scary near-misses

And tales of the blitzes of

Quarterbacks taking a blow

 

It’s the battle to clench #1 time of year

There’ll be much missile-throwing

And scoreboards all glowing when trophies are near

It’s the battle toclench #1 time of year

 

There’ll be offense aggression

With deep penetration

From the gunslinger’s merciless blow

There’ll be defensive glories

And big tales and stories

Of championships seized from the foe!

 

It’s the most wonderful ball

Yes, the most wonderful ball

It’s the most wonderful ball of the year!

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