While speaking about his football team at Earlham High School’s fall sports banquet last Sunday, Head Coach Chris Caskey stated very matter-of-factly that “we’re getting what we deserve.” After finishing third in their district, his team had won a first round playoff game the previous week and was getting set to play a team that was 10-0 the next night. His statement wasn’t self-congratulatory or boastful in any way. Just reality. All the off-season work by the players in the weight room was paying off. The team was reaping the rewards of good attitudes, solid practice habits, and the willingness to do what it takes to improve. Seniors and veterans were setting a good example and leading by doing while the underclassmen were not afraid to follow in their footsteps. Big moments in games were not intimidating. Everything was coming together at the right time. And they were getting what they deserved – and earned.
When they beat a previously undefeated team by two touchdowns on their home field in the rain on Monday, they also got a birth in round three of the state playoffs, one step away from playing in the semifinals at the UNI-Dome.
There are 47 other teams still playing high school football in Iowa that have similar scripts. None of the teams have gotten this far by being lucky or on “looks” alone – they have gotten what they deserve. They have done the work necessary and have played hard and smart. There are “underdogs” like Earlham and teams with gleaming undefeated records and an aura of invincibility, but they have all had to overcome difficulties and challenges along the way to get here. With grit and determination, star quarterbacks and special teams players alike have battled and defeated opponents and the elements; doubters and naysayers; pain and injury; fear and uncertainty. While they have been winning games together, the players have formed friendships and bonds that have strengthened their souls as well as their team. They are confident that no one can beat them now, but not too cocky. And they are having the time of their young lives – which is great, because they deserve it.
There are plenty of deserving teams whose season is over. Maybe they couldn’t out-work a lack of talent and depth or too many injuries; or maybe they could have dug down a little deeper and gotten more out of themselves. That’s left for them to consider and their coaches to contemplate. But that’s just how the world works – this isn’t six-and-under soccer anymore and not everybody gets a participation ribbon. Sometimes you fail to hit your goals and fall short of expectations, but you pick yourself up and keep trying. (And there are plenty of teams out there that finished with miserable records and they also got what they deserved this season. Enough said.)
But only six teams will be left standing a couple weeks from now in Cedar Falls, and they will each have gotten what they deserved.