Domeward Bound

road-dome3One of the hard facts of football is that only a few teams get to say they won their last game of the year. And losing that last game is difficult. Especially for a good team like Earlham that had every reason to believe that they could win their first round playoff game. They fell 37-6 to Bishop Garrigan in Algona. For the seniors, the final loss means they’ll probably never play organized football again. For everybody else, they’ll get another shot – but that won’t be for another nine months. Losing stings.

Earlham’s season was filled with interesting contrasts. Their four losses came at the hands of teams with a current combined record of 39-1. The two Class A teams that beat them are perennially good parochial schools that currently sit at numbers 1 and 2 in the BCMoore rankings. (St. Albert and Bishop Garrigan.) Their other two losses came at the hands of two rugged 1A teams that are still in the playoffs. (Van Meter and Madrid.)

Their six wins consisted of one forfeit (they would have won!) and five wins on the field by an average margin of 40 points. So there weren’t any tweener games for these guys. Some valuable seniors and good leaders will be graduating, but they’ll return a solid, experienced group that will be primed to make a deeper playoff run next season.

There’s no place like Dome

A trip to the UNI-Dome is on the line Friday for the teams remaining in the playoffs and all the matchups are fantastic. A few that look especially intriguing to me:

1A – Madrid at Van Meter: This is a re-match of a Week 9 gem. The Bulldogs had only allowed one touchdown all season until the Tigers scored three against them that night, but Van Meter prevailed 31-24. They “held” halfback Michael Santi to 183 yards, and they’ll have to keep him from running completely wild again. Van Meter’s passing attack is very good, and they have a stud running back (Carson Rhodes) of their own.

2A – Union, La Porte City at North Fayette Valley: Another rematch. NFV thumped the Knights 56-21 in week 8. The TigerHawks rushed for over 400 yards that night so the Knights defense will have to do better than that. The Knights have a good passing game and they’ll have to sling it to win this one on the road. Crazy prediction: NFV won’t pass much. I tend to be neutral in games when my home town team isn’t playing, but North Fayette holds a special place in my heart!

3A – Pella at Solon: These teams have more hardware than True Value – Pella is two-time defending champion and Solon won four titles in a row from 2007-10. That seems like a long time ago for the Spartans, but they are back knocking on the Dome’s door after a couple of “down” years. Two of the best coaches in the state, Solon’s Kevin Miller and Pella’s Jay McKinstrey, will match wits in this one.


There are 16 undefeated teams left in the playoffs.

About 20 percent (9 of 48) of the teams remaining in the playoffs across the six classes are parochial schools. By my count, there are 23 parochial schools in the state with football programs, and 10 of those made the playoffs – and that’s with a few perennial playoff teams NOT making it this season. A tendency of public school parents and fans is to hate on the parochial schools, but I’m not in that camp. 


You Can’t Go Back (Redux)


This week I’m recycling a blog from a couple of years ago – for a couple of reasons. (1) For week 9 of the season, I wanted to write something about “Senior Night,” and I realized I already I had. (2) I like this one. (Any time I can reference Uncle Rico, I’ve done my job.) If you read this before, read it again! If you haven’t, I hope you enjoy it.

There isn’t enough football in Napoleon Dynamite for it to qualify as one of my favorite football movies, but it is definitely the best movie ever that mentions “delicious bass.” One of my favorite scenes (there are so many to choose from!) is football related. Uncle Rico is sitting with Napoleon and Kip and they are watching a video he made of himself throwing a football. No receivers – just him with that classic headband zipping the ball around the prairie. Kip seems neutral; Napoleon proclaims it the “worst video ever;” and Uncle Rico is almost mesmerized with his performance when hearkens to his high school playing days and pines, “Ohhhh, man I wish I could go back in time. I’d take state.”

This is especially hilarious to old(ish) guys like me because we all have a little Uncle Rico in us. There isn’t an ex-high school athlete (except for those very few who went onto greater athletic glory in college or the pros) who hasn’t thought back to their playing days and wondered what could have been. “What if I could go back and play that game (or season) again?” I admit that I’ve done that plenty of times – I just never filmed myself as a 30- or 40- or 50-something wannabe athlete re-enacting my youthful sports life.

Here’s a memo to current high school athletes everywhere: you can’t go back. Do it now. Whatever you have dreamed; whatever you have worked for; this is your time.

Especially you senior football players. Forget your first three years. Maybe you played a lot; maybe not. Your team may have won tons of games and maybe they have been terrible. It doesn’t matter now. All you need to care about is the now.

Don’t worry about next year. Maybe you’ll be in college this time next year and maybe you’ll have a job. Forget about it. All you need to care about is the now.

What you and your football team do over the next few weeks is all that matters. From the starting quarterback to the freshman on the end of the bench, now is the time to grab the glory. Make the memories you will never forget.

Week 9 will be a beginning for 96 teams that move onto the playoffs while it will be the end for everyone else. A lot of seniors will play their last game ever on Friday. That may not dawn on you right away, but it will soon enough. So if you were ever going to play like it’s your last game – you need to do it Friday night. Don’t waste this opportunity to be great. Even you underclassmen. Your last game will come sooner than you think, so make the most of week 9 – and every game – while you still can.

Only six teams will raise championship trophies on the floor of the UNI-Dome. Every other team will end their season with a defeat, and it will taste bitter. If your team isn’t one of fortunate few that will be celebrating, just make sure you go down knowing you gave it your best shot. Don’t be Uncle Rico 20 years from now saying, “Yeah…if Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we woulda been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.”

Woulda, shoulda, coulda doesn’t cut it. Do. Leave the field with no regrets. Because you can’t go back.