By Doug Halberstadt
Realizing your high school football career has come to an end is painful. I witnessed just how painful last Saturday afternoon, Nov. 8. I was on the sidelines for round two of the Illinois High School Association Class 1A playoffs. The winner would move on to the next round. The losers would turn in their equipment and clean out their lockers.
When the final horn sounded, the Lena-Winslow Panthers defeated the Rockford Christian Life Eagles. It’s tradition for the two teams to line up at midfield and exchange handshakes following the game. I was close enough to that line to look into the eyes of the players and hear some of the comments.
The eyes of the Eagles players told the story. These guys had just played their hearts out for 48 minutes and came up on the short end of the scoreboard. The sting of the defeat was just beginning to sink in. While exchanging handshakes and good wishes, the Eagles players did their best to not let those emotions show. There was no way they were going to let the team that had just ended their perfect season see how much that hurt.
After the Eagles players and coaches passed through the line, they went to the fence along the side of the field and received high fives and congratulations from their families and their fans, the realization of the season being over truly hit home. For the seniors on the team, this would probably be the last time they would ever play in an organized “real” game.
That epiphany revealed itself in the reddened eyes and tear-streaked cheeks of the players as they made their way from the fence line back onto the field to hear their coach’s post-game comments. I’m guessing regardless of what he had to say, it wouldn’t be enough to ease the pain they were feeling at that very moment — a pain that obviously ran deeper than any of the bumps or bruises received during the game.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Nov. 12-18, 2014, issue