Into the valley…..
Sept. 17, 2012
Football history was made on Friday night at Aloha high school. But that wasn’t the real story. Rudyard Kipling was an English short story writer, poet and novelist chiefly remembered for his tales and poems of British soldiers in India. In one of his poems he wrote about the courage of a group of out manned soldiers. “Into the valley of death rode the five hundred,” or close to that.
My expectations were pretty normal I think, as we drove along I-5 and highway 217 on the way to Aloha high school in Beaverton, Oregon. Kipling’s poem did cross my mind but I’m sure none of the players were thinking about anything but the music from their head phones. I hoped that we would compete and make the game close, even though they were a decided favorite. We had defeated the Warriors last year, also at their home field, and proved we belonged in the same division. But, they are better and I’m not sure we are. My thought was, if we could keep the game close it would be a moral victory.
We knew what awaited us at Aloha but undaunted our forty-three kids waded into the valley and fought their hearts out. No, it wasn’t life and death but sometimes surrounding the game of football is an atmosphere so intense that it seem so.
We had just come off a loss at West Albany that had its good moments and bad. We didn’t tackle well and we were inconsistent on offense. Bad combination, but we have had a good week of practice and I was encouraged at our improvement.
Last week we faced an excellent running back and after watching him up close I was convinced that we had just faced the second best running back in the state of Oregon. Unfortunately for us this week we were about to be challenged by the best running back not only in Oregon but also quite possibly in the nation. We did. Thomas Tyner has run the second fastest 100-meter by a high school kid in America and the fastest sprinter isn’t a football player. That would make Thomas the fastest football player at the high school level in the entire USA.
The game didn’t begin as I had hoped. Superman broke a long run on their first series and we found ourselves down 7-0 quickly. But then a strange thing happened. We not only competed but only trailed 7-14 at the quarter break. It was obvious to all our fans that our kids weren’t intimidated or afraid of the challenge. We scored 34 points in the second quarter on our way to a 41-35 halftime lead.
They had well over sixty players suited and I was afraid their depth would wear us down. I felt sure that soon the dam would burst and we would find ourselves running in desperation from an avalanche. The halftime score in our favor gave me hope but I still had a premonition that gave me concern. Our kids were exhausted and we spent the entire halftime simply resting and hydrating.
We fought tooth and nail for the better part of four quarters before their group of D-1 prospects wore us down. I’m not sure if our kids will ever understand how their effort against overwhelming odds gave me such pleasure. I’ve coached well over 500 football games and just maybe this one game was the game that I was most proud of the effort of our players. We lost yes; to an opponent with one player who is an NFL type athlete playing against high school kids. Teenagers, many of whom don’t shave on a regular basis, will go to class on Monday, study chemistry, advanced algebra and college prep English, maintain a social relevance and after school go to football practice. Kids who are not NFL ready in any measure.
It was history on a Friday night in Beaverton, Oregon. ESPN and other national media couldn’t wait to showcase Thomas Tyner and his 643 yards gained and ten touchdown effort, but what I couldn’t get over was a bunch of teenage kids from a small town suburb of Portland who gave their all and never for a moment gave up. If Kipling was alive he would written a poem about it.
There were a lot of winners on Friday night, some of them scored more points than their opponents…some didn’t!