It was one heck of a week to be a football father and a Chickasaw
I turned 52 last week, and although my boys would argue that I’m 16, at least maturity wise, there are days I feel like an old man.
Saturday was one of those days.
Throw in the fact I slept for a mere couple of hours the night before — a thrilling high school football game will do that to this guy — with the walk up the Carlson Stadium steps at Luther College, and I was, in a word, wiped.
But, man oh man, that exhaustion was so worth it.
On my birthday last Thursday, several friends asked me what the boys “got me” for a present. My stock reply went something like this: “They gave me a bottle of chocolate milk and a donut, but I think they’re going to give me my ‘real present’ tomorrow night.”
That was the night New Hampton played Clear Lake for the Class 2A, District 2 championship. That was the night that their season — not to mention Josh’s prep career — could have came to a crashing end. That was a night I both couldn’t wait for and dreaded at the same time.
I love a “winner-take-all” game, and quite honestly, I had a feeling — even though there was hope that the Chickasaws could make the playoffs even with a loss — that if New Hampton did not win on Friday night, it would stay home for the postseason.
And, trust me, my house this past weekend would have been a very tough place to reside if the Chickasaws didn’t make the playoffs.
I last played football in 1982, yet it’s the one thing I did in high school that I’ve never quite been able to duplicate in “real life.”
I was in three other sports when I was a Mapleton Scot, and basketball was sort of replicated by “noon ball,” my track days continued with — you can start laughing here — several years of road races and I played fast pitch softball and town team baseball, which gave me my diamond fix.
I also was involved in drama and speech and over the years I’ve had a chance to dabble in community theater and anyone knows me knows I can talk.
But I haven’t played a single down of tackle football since I walked off a field in Truman, Minn., 35 years ago.
To this day, I miss it.
And I sense kids, even today, realize that when that last whistle is blown, they, too, know they will miss it, too. Of all the “ends of seasons” I’ve covered, there are none harder than watching seniors leave the football field for one last time.
I’m dreading that last game for Josh and his teammates for a number of reasons.
Duh, Josh is my kid, but it’s way more than that.
Even if I didn’t have a child in this group, I’d like it. They are a classic “underdog class.” They have twisted senses of humor. They are good kids who will give you everything they got every time they step onto a field, court, mat, track, course or diamond.
In a small town like ours, you get to know your kids’ friends, and I desperately wanted to see KJ, Braydon, Bradan, Noah, Alex, Jake, Josh, Trevor, Robert, Tyler, Areon and Wesley extend their seasons on Friday night.
There were two more reasons I wasn’t quite ready for the 2017 season to end Friday.
One was the fact that when this season ends, it might be the last time my two boys are ever teammates on the gridiron.
For years, one would have thought they couldn’t stand each other, but they have grown closer in the past two years and football has seen to that. They have become each other’s biggest boosters, and the maturation of their relationship has been cool to watch.
The other reason is I know how much coach Scott Frerichs has invested into this team.
He told me back in August that he believed this was a playoff team, and he and his fellow coaches have worked their you-know-whats off to make sure it would become one.
Frerichs is a heck of a football coach. Period.
Coming into this season, Frerichs had spent 24 years at the helm of the Chickasaws. Seventeen times New Hampton has made the playoffs. There are those who say that for eight of those years the playoffs were “watered down” because 32 teams made the postseason. My answer to that? The three times New Hampton made the postseason as either a No. 3 or No. 4 seed, it won its first round game every time.
In short, Scott Frerichs is a winner. I’ve covered high school sports for an eternity, and there haven’t been many coaches better than Frerichs when it comes to giving their teams a chance to win.
The good news is that New Hampton capped a hell of a week to be a Chickasaw with a 14-7 win on Friday night in a game that was tough on the ticker.
Three days earlier, the Chickasaw volleyball team dug itself out of an early hole and raced past Waukon in its regional opener, and if you haven’t seen this team, go to the high school tonight and watch its regional semifinal against Oelwein.
The day before New Hampton took the football field, the Chickasaws’ Nolan Usher and Olivia Burke showed plenty of grit and ran their way to the state cross country meet.
I’m proud of them all. I’m not a native, but I’m a Chickasaw to the core.
Yes, personally I’m most invested in the football team, and I’m so glad that I’ll have at least one more Friday night to prowl the sidelines.
Yet, one of the enduring moments of this season happened last Friday night in a corner of the Lions Field complex. It was there that football players and their fellow students gathered and sang the New Hampton school fight song.
It was there that I realized it truly was a great week to be a Chickasaw.