Goodbye Football Part 2
There are people I owe a little to, there are some I owe a lot to, and then there’s Brian Pritts. Freshman year my high school coach paid little attention to players, felt like he didn’t even bother remembering names. When Brian was hired as head coach the next year, he took a keen interest in my development. It wasn’t just me though, he reached out to many students at Southmoreland and went out of his way for everyone. For me personally, he put his neck out to scouts and because of him, my career is even worth putting into a few blog posts like this. One day he even mentioned to me when I was practicing my drop step as a tackle, “You’re gonna be a guard in college”. I cannot say he’s the most winningest, or the most prestigious, but I can clearly say he was the best. He took care of all of his players and I’ll always be grateful for Him.
I’m a senior now, I’ll just let that thought soak in. It’s quite strange, 4 years ago I sat in a locker scared of the seniors, scared of being crushed on the field, scared of a lot of things, but I continued forward. Now, I’m sitting on the other side and I have the reign here. I’m not afraid of anyone or anything, so what will my actions be now? I can distinctly remember the first day of camp that year, the turf field was wet from the moisture in the air, it was a little foggy, it was unusually cool for an august morning. Actually, I can distinctly remember so much from that year, positives and negatives.
McGuffy, they were big, they were strong, and we just came off of a close loss at Avonworth. We kicked off to start the game and they returned it all the way to our side of the field around the 40 yard line. Right before the first play, one of our stadium light towers immediately shut off sending that corner of the field into darkness. It delayed the game for about 10 minutes, then the refs decided to continue play despite the light situation. I’ll be honest, I had a bad feeling about this game. It felt like everything was going wrong, up next to fail was our defense, but it didn’t. We held them to a field goal, got the ball and drove down and scored. Then we did it again, and again, and again until we were up 49 to 13. That game I learned that sometimes that gut feeling can be dead wrong. That was a big positive memory, though only a few weeks later the pendulum swung and hit on the opposite end.
In the middle of the year we were tied for first place in the conference, our next game was against Jeannette. It was heralded as the game of the week from both the Tribune-Review and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Also Jeannette had the #1 player in the country, making it a possible showcase for his ability. I remember walking into the locker room around 3pm and seeing news vans already, there were areas marked off in the grass for overflow of people, this was going to be a big game. It was big, but not in a good way, this was one of the only games that I don’t have a fond memory from. We were almost at double capacity in attendance, there was a long crowd of people standing all around the field. I let the stakes and size of the game get to me and I didn’t play like myself. I remember the front page of the Tribune-Review the next day with big words spralled across the front that read: “NOT EVEN CLOSE”. They blew us out, I’ve never been more embarrassed from a single game before. After that game I learned of mental toughness, its importance, and how if I want to play in some big games I’m going to need it. I also promised myself that I would never let a big game get the best of my nerves.
That loss completely destroyed the emotion of our team and it showed in the following games. A couple close losses to good teams and a close win to a horrible team, games that all should’ve been wins. Eventually was Brownsville, god I hate that team. I dont know how a team so bad can give us a game every year. They only had around 25 kids on thier team. We played them on Television, and by television I mean public access for the greater brownsville borough. My mother bought a VCD of the game (DVD was too cutting edge for them) and on the second disc the audio was screwed up. The color commentator featured had the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard in my life. He made John Fedko (of….DA FEDKO PHONE ZONE!) sound like Sir Ian Mckellen. After 2 quarters we were down 18 to 0 and our quarterback was injured. On the first throw of the second half, our second string quarterback threw an interception on our own 30 yard line, the game started to have a funeral feel to it. If they scored on this possession we were done for. It was 4th and 5, Brownsville was on our 25 yard line and they were going for it. Their quarterback dropped back and booted to the right. Just then, I swam through the line and my teammate Jeff Beal sprinted around the edge on the opposite side of the line. We both approached their QB with unwavering speed just as he stopped to throw. Jeff hit him first, but he scraped off due to a well timed juke by their QB, by then I was already in the air and he was moving almost out of my reach. By my fingertips I was able to establish just enough grip to spin around him and slam him to the ground for a sack, our ball, our game.
Coach Pritts called Scott Kohl and I over and quickly told us to go to the play side on every play for the entire next series. Scott was the guard that played next to me, great player, but most of all he was my best friend through high school. In fact, Scott and I played together since the 6th grade. Our line was much stronger on our side, we were much more experienced, we needed to guarantee that holes were going to be opened on this next drive. If that’s such a great idea then why not do it all the time? Well, all creativity, misdirection, and disguise goes out the window, but we were willing to risk it. Another way of saying Coach Pritt’s words were, “Hey, we can’t throw the ball, so we’re going to run right behind you on every single play”. Erik Frund, our running back was great and hard runner, one of the most athletic people I’ve ever seen in my life. I remember playing soccer with Erik when we were both 7 and 8 years old, we felt so comfortable playing next to each other, there was so much chemistry. Right now Coach Pritts was challenging us to go down and score multiple times within 15minutes to win the game. Challenge accepted.
First play, 45 iso, 20 yard gain. Second play, 44 iso, 22 yard gain. Third Play, 45 iso, 29 yard gain, touchdown. Somewhere, someone just shocked us all with a defibrillator, because we were suddenly alive. On their next possession, we sacked their QB twice making them go three and out. The next possession was almost identical to our series before. Three plays, 73 yards, Touchdown. We didn’t stop, we couldn’t stop, we were simply having too much fun. The final score of the game was 29 to 18. Erik broke the Southmoreland single game rushing record, I honestly forget what it was, but it was something around the 270 yard range. That game, I learned it is never truly over until you see 00:00 on the scoreboard and that some wins feel like losses.
Despite the amazing comeback, it was still Brownsville and we should have beat them by at least 30. Thankfully though, winning covers a multitude of sins, I wasn’t happy by that win at all and I needed to make sure we played better the next week. Despite a few losses, we were actually still in the hunt for the playoffs, the next week was my last game at Southmoreland Stadium and Washington High was coming to town.