After going all over town to get soundbites from players and coaches, and putting them into previews that took hours and hours to write, the wait is over. It’s time for high school football.
It’s week one of the Missouri high school football season and it feels like Christmas. Any coach and player would tell you that. For the football powerhouse schools, they’ve been waiting for this day since last Thanksgiving. For the schools with decent basketball teams, they’ve been waiting for this day since after spring break. Even if you are in high school then this is the first Friday of the school year and in a way it feels the same. High school kids live for the weekends, but football players live for Friday nights.
Because it is the first week, there’s always an anxiousness that surrounds a typical football player on game day. They may tell their teachers differently, but school is completely secondary in the back of their head, even though they’re physically in the classroom. Instead of thinking about why 10 + 9 = 21 or how it was important that the United Nations was formed after the Civil War... Something like that. School can’t go by any slower. This may be the worst part of the day when you think too much about the occasion. What if they’re line is stronger than they appear on film...? How are we really going to stop their double pistol rushing attack...? They run over 70% of the time, but they have weapons at wideout, how will we cover that when they run a play action...? Oh no! What was the route I’m supposed to run on 48...? I pray that Todd’s leg will have enough in the tank through four quarters... Coach has to put me in on third and long, Andrew is too slow to rush the quarterback.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of going to school on game day is wearing your jersey that will be more like armor hours later. You show off your team, number, colors and pride with that jersey. With that jersey on, you feel a little more confident than usual, a bit more swagger about yourself, you walk with some authority that everyone else wishes they could have.
When school ends a little weight lifts off the shoulders. The players go to the fieldhouse to meet up. It’s funny how a couple months ago, some players, who had never met each other before, but after their grueling summer workouts and team building, feel like brothers. Most everyone else has a similar feeling. Brothers in arms about to do battle. The coaches lead their players through last minute walk-throughs and reminders of their jobs.
The ride over on the school bus to the opposing school is a release, but at the same time is a heightened sense of anticipation. Players listen to their headphones, while others who feel more relaxed go on social media and take game day selfies with other teammates, a common custom in this day and age. In a way it’s a nice idea to get rid of stress.
St. Louis doesn’t shut down for high school football games. Sadly it shuts down for a riot every now and then. It does not have the small town football passion that those small communities get to relive over and over again, every August. The next best thing is for the small, suburban communities to shut down and support their local high school team. Father’s will come home from work a little early. Mother’s put on their son’s jersey or a t-shirt version of it. Hundreds of students of come to support their school with bucket loads of energy and get into shouting matches with the opposing student section.
The summer is over. The pep rallies are over. The previews are over. It’s time to kickoff.