"High School Football in the Age of Innocence" Part One:
On a late August night, the temperature still sweltering and people still sweating even as the sun went down, I stood on the field with my fellow cheerleaders. A harvest moon rose over our heads and our hearts filled with hope as we eagerly awaited the opening game of what should be a great season. We had most of our starting players returning. I was the co-captain of the cheerleaders. The outlook for this season, my senior year, was promising.
It was the fall of 1975–many years ago. Much has happened since that warm August night. Karen, the captain of the cheerleaders, and my close friend, died just three years later in a double murder which is still unsolved. Her death shattered the innocence of the sleepy little mountain town in southern
where I lived. Other members of that team have passed away as well but we have a
few success stories. Donnie, the offensive captain, played football at West Virginia . He is now the
CFO of an Atlanta-based business. Wayne, a junior that year, also played
football at Wake Forest
University , setting some Atlantic Coast
Conference receiving records while there. Joey, the quarterback, is a tenured
professor now. I married, moved to Wake Forest ,
raised four children and eventually became a writer. Those of my classmates who
remain see each other once in a while at class reunions. Louisville
As I sat in the stands on such an August evening a few years ago, my mind could not help but wander to bygone days and I was once again on the field next to my friend Karen cheering our team on. We lost only one game that year. But our hopes faded as our team dropped into fifth place in the statewide poll. Back then, only the top four teams in the state earned the privilege of moving on to post season play-offs.
However, in the middle of the last game of the season, our luck changed. Over the public address system, the announcer loudly proclaimed that
High School was beating in their season’s
last game. A cheer rang out, first in a low rumble then building to a frenzy as
the impact of the news sank in. If George Washington could pull out a win
against #4 Charleston ,
it would change the ratings. Charleston
would fall to fifth and we would move up into that much coveted fourth place
position, gaining a right to post-season action. Charleston
As the second half of both games progressed, forgetting our own game which we were handily winning, we waited with bated breath for each update on the other game, several hours away. Finally, the last announcement came–Charleston lost! Our own win a few moments later was rather anticlimactic. We were flying high just the same because we knew we were headed to the state football play-offs!