There’s Just Something Special About High School Football
As the clock was counting down the last few seconds of today's 2A Kentucky State High School Football Championship game, I couldn't help but tear up. Not because my alma mater Mayfield High School would ultimately win the game. Not because it was our fourth championship in a row, 12th total. And, not because a lot of these players are friends with my nephews and I've watched them grow up. But, it was because of those who were sitting around me. Those who had been there years before. Those who I cheered for, cried with and celebrated alongside of. See, if you didn't grow up in a football town, you just don't get it. Let me try and explain.
I was born in Milan, Tennessee. Not sure if it's on the map, but if football heritage was taken into account, it sure would be. Coach Tucker built a take-notice football program decades ago that the Bulldogs still carry on today. Growing up, you could find me on the track around the field, in my purple and white cheerleading outfit that my Grandmother Lena handmade just for me. Football is in my blood. I joke that it was my first love, but I'm not convinced that it really wasn't. I moved to Mayfield in the fourth grade. Lucky for my family, Mayfield and Milan were pretty much mirror towns. Both small and charming. And, both deeply rooted in football tradition.
Growing up in a small town can have its pros and cons. But, having a close-knit group of friends that you can't escape even if you wanted to is definitely the best part. Being able to cheer on your friends from the sidelines is priceless. There's a certain pride that comes from decorating lockers during game week, making candy bags for the players and being steps away from the field in wins and losses. It's been many years since I've been in high school, but I can still hear the band playing my favorite songs. I still remember dozens of cheers and our fight song dance and the feeling of that first kick-off every Fall Friday night.
So, when that game clock ticked down this afternoon, I thought about my days at MHS. Just in my section at the game today, I saw at least 10 players from my years in high school and each brought back memories. I thought about Adam and Bo's last game, a loss in the State final. I remembered Chris breaking his arm against Hoptown in the second game of the season. When one of our receivers couldn't quite stretch enough to make a catch in the game, I mumbled under my breath, "Clif would have totally caught that." And I had convinced myself that if Rowdy or Brent could suit up, they could have really helped move the ball on the ground.
Travis Atwell and the Hancock County Hornets ended my Senior class football career. That dang guy was the quarterback, played defense and kicked! Not that I'm still bitter, I'm just saying... Seeing my friends walk off that field for the last time is something that I'll never forget. We cried. We hugged. We had no clue how a game would impact our lives. All of our lives... the players, coaches, cheerleaders, band, parents, has-beens, will-be's, fans.
We are all high school football. We all have a certain pride that just can't be found outside of a Friday night. Maybe it's because those who suit up know that they are playing for more than just themselves. They are playing for their Dads, uncles, cousins who still talk about their glory days. They are playing for the kids in the stands, who dream of wearing the red and black. They are playing for their town, for those who always have and always will support their team. They are playing for you and they are playing for me.
I'll bet that just reading this is bringing back memories for so many of you. Why?
Because, pride and tradition never graduate.
Because, it is more than just a game.
Because, there's just something special about high school football.