This is a piece I wrote a couple of months ago about the 2004 BHS football season. I wanted to do it because I needed to put the season down on paper, for my own reflection and for posterity. I didn’t want to focus on the individual players because I felt it would cheapen our overall effort, so I focused more on how the team progressed as the season rolled along. I am really pleased with what I came away with. So enjoy this story.
It was a long road to get here. A long trail of sweat and tears. A seemingly endless path of battles lost and won. But it had all paid off, and here I was, or rather, here we were, the Birmingham High School football team, now readying ourselves to play one of the biggest games of our lives, and we weren’t even at the Coliseum yet. We were in the teachers’ cafeteria eating our pregame dinner, and it was dead silent. Everybody was in their own world, with their minds on one singular objective: to win the game tonight.
We had started preparing for this game long before the season had even begun. But we knew where we wanted to go and we were driven to do whatever it was going to take to get there. We began by lifting weights and then moved on to Spring Ball where we retaught ourselves the basic techniques that would make us champions. From there came Oxy Camp at Occidental College. It was four days in the hot June sun doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and breathing football. It had become a way of life for us. It had become an obsession; our only impetus for living. We lived for those Friday nights where we would be tested — and sometimes, where we would fail.
We worked tirelessly throughout the summer. Every man, because now we were no longer boys but men, indefatigable no matter what the elements threw at us. Practicing for four hours in the one hundred degree heat? We did that in our sleep. We did every drill with lightning-fast precision, and gave one-hundred-and-ten percent, our all, every last ounce of strength and energy; even though the thermometer was quickly rising above the centurion mark.
And then finally, after a long, grueling summer, we were ready for the first game. it would also be our first defeat. We played an away game at Notre Dame High School, a private Catholic School that we played every year, and had never beaten. We gave them everything we had and still lost, but it was one of the best games the Patriots had ever played against Notre Dame, and when the game ended, we knew we had an opportunity to achieve greatness.
The followinf week we worked hard for our first win and the privilege to take our helmets off during practice. But victory slipped our grasp, again. Our second game of the season was against Valencia High School. The Vikings played a tough game and scored a touchdown in the closing minutes of the game that sealed our fate. But hope was still alive and we vowed to be able to remove our helmets after the next week.
Our first victory came against Crespi High School in the third game. We got at them and kept pounding them until they shut down. We wanted to experience some relief from the sweltering heat, thick with the smell of sweat and grass that came with our helmets during practice. We all breathed a sigh of relief that next Monday when we removed our helmets during our pre-practice stretch. But our focus never shifted and our resolve never faltered.
TO BE CONTINUED. . . . . . . . . .