S: Odyssey of Andrew
FC: The Odyssey of Andrew | By: Andrew Cross
2: Training Camp It is the first day of August and with it comes the first day of training camp. I enter the parking lot, hundreds of kids in shorts and t-shirts already sweating from the heat. My dad and I step out of the car greeted by a wave of heat that makes us both want to head right back home, get back in bed, and enjoy the rest of the summer in our nice, air conditioned rooms. So why don't we? It is football season, time for training camp and four more months of running and sacrificing our bodies for the love of the game. It is hard to believe that by the end of the season we will be coming to practice, bundled in under armor and long socks, as we are cooking now just glad we are conditioning without full pads. As everyone begins to disperse to their own teams' meetings friends reunite with their teammates, discussing how the team looks this year. It's the same old speech from coach. "This looks like the best team I've seen in a while," and "looks like we'll have a great season." Then the speech ended, and the season began. "Let's get to work boys."
3: Camp was tough, with sprints, laps, pushups, situps, leglifts, and the worst of all, hills. Outside of Nashoba High School right to the side of the baseball field you will find The Hill. Since I was seven years old in my first year of football coaches used The Hill as their biggest form of workouts. If you got in trouble, you ran hills. If you were being lazy you ran hills. If you gave up too many points, you ran hills. No matter what age you were you knew of The Hill. On this steep hill you would sprint, backpedal, shuffle, even crawl up on your hands and knees, until you touched the fence lying at the top of The Hill. Training camp was rough, but it was necessary. Here we put our blood and sweat into working hard as a team. With each lap we ran, and each hill we did, we did it as a team. We fought through it together, and it made us a stronger team as a whole. Training camp was the most difficult part of the season, but it was also what truly began, the perfect season.
5: Our First Game It's the first game of the season, ten in the morning, eyes are heavy, the air is warm. We are running plays to prepare for the game ahead. The other team steps off their bus, looking big and threatening in their maroon and gold jerseys. "Don't look at them," our coach says, "they're kids just like all of you, and when it comes down to it, you'll know who the better team is." We continued running plays. No one spoke a word, until game time. We marched up to the field, up to our bench where we stood, staring at our opponents across the field, captains walked out to the center of the field, the rest of the team stood back anxious to begin, tense, but focused. Preparing for battle. We elected to receive, wanting to be the first to score, and stormed the field. Play by play we fought, smashing helmets, slowly marching to the endzone. We scored first late in the third quarter, completing a pass for the extra point we went up 7-0. With only a minute left to go we kicked off, sure we could hold them for such a short time.
6: They returned the ball to the fifty yard line. With less than a minute left they pulled off a comeback drive. A ten yard run, and a timeout, a twenty yard pass, another timeout. With no timeouts and few seconds left the quarterback dropped back to pass, our safety stumbled, and the ball was lofted right over our heads into the endzone. They tied the game at 7-7. With no time left, we went into overtime. The rules of a youth football overtime are different that professional. Each team starts at the twenty yard line, with no time limit, your possession ends after you either score, kick a field goal, or turn the ball over. Groton won the coin toss and decided to defend first. Our coach had the perfect play prepared, 28 waggle. A fake to me, and then a pass to the endzone to our wide reciever, Markiesh. First play of overtime, Brady, our quarterback, dropped back to pass. The defense committed to the fake, blitzing in and surrounding me. An easy pass, Brady lofted the ball over their heads for a touchdown. Our sideline went wild, sure our defense could hold for the win, but the game was not over yet. After three plays Groton answered with a touchdown of their own on a run straight up the middle.
7: We proceeded to a second overtime. This time Groton would get the ball first. They ran the ball three times in a row with no success, and on fourth down the quarterback was sacked, and the ball was ours. The game was in our hands now, all our offense needed to do was score, and we would win. Knowing our offense would prevail we marched into that endzone with pride after five straight run plays, simply pushing the defense back showing our superior strength. The final play of the game, a dive play to me straight up the middle. I saw a whole in the defense and I attacked it, I launched myself full speed through it and into the endzone. We had won, and in heroic fashion, our first game of our perfect season.
8: The Perfect Season After the Tyngsboro game, our team improved. Getting better every game we became known as the team to beat along with Charleton-Dudley. It was not an easy season. We had won our first three games in overtime victories, barely surviving each of them. After this however we won our final five games in blowout victories, showing no mercy to the teams standing in the way of our perfect road to the superbowl. With a brick wall defense, and a powerhouse offense, we felt unstoppable heading into the playoffs. Our first game was against Westford, a team whose only loss was to the undefeated, seemingly unbeatable Charleton-Dudley. It was a night game, we would be playing under the lights. For the first time I walked onto that field, the lights shining over me, I felt like nothing could stop me. I suddenly felt it. This is the field I have watched the varsity play on week after week, under these same lights since I was seven years old. At that moment I felt a surge, and realized, we would not lose this game.
10: That night our defense stood stronger than ever. We had sacks left and right, never giving their quarterback more than a couple seconds to throw, and bottling up their runningbacks for a loss of yards almost every carry. We pulled off a shutout that game, winning 14-0. Under those lights we proved that night, that we were worthy of playing Charleton. We felt that after this game, with the power that pulsed through us that night, no one could defeat us, and we took that feeling into preparing for our final test, Charleton. | http://cache.gawker.com/assets/resources/2008/02/fnl.jpg
11: Playoff Practices As the bitter sweet air blows around me, I feel nothing, I am in a complete trance. Thinking about the past years, as Charleton has walked all over us, talked trash, and played dirty. The 30 point blowouts, the Hail Mary passes as they already had the game in hand, and the smirks on their faces as they walked away from what could barely be called a football game. I remembered it all, vividly, and it gave me more motivation than ever. “Cross! Wake up, and get over here,” yelled my coach, “Okay take a knee boys.” He paused briefly scanning us all, gathering his thoughts. “This is it boys, for some of you this is the last time you will play Charleton, this is you last chance to get back at them for all those blowouts they’ve handed us.” My thoughts flashed back to previous scores, 28-0, 36-0, 42-0. We had still never scored a single touchdown against them. “These practices are where we win the game, give one hundred twenty percent every moment you are out here, and there is no way we can lose.” At that moment I shivered, not from the cold biting at my back, but the adrenaline pulsing through me, I was ready for this week, I was ready to win.
13: The first night was rough, it was cold, the ground was hard, but my thoughts were never on the pain. All everyone could think about was winning, no matter what. We ran plays, and conditioned until we were close to collapsing. My head was beating, cold sweat dropping from my face, practically freezing before it hit the ground. By the end of that night, every single person on the team had bumps cuts and bruises all over arms and legs. Yet at no point did anyone complain or wince, we were Chieftains, and as our coach put it, “We don’t feel pain.” This was just the first step to winning though, we knew this was just the beginning, and that we could not let up from now until Sunday night, when the final seconds ticked off the clock, and a winner was made clear. As night one ended, we brought it in and cheered one clear word, pulsing through that freezing cold night, a shout that could be heard from Bolton to Charleton, “WIN!” Night two was not nearly as hard, as everyone was bumped up and hurt from the night before. For the most part we just ran plays and conditioned, putting everything we had into the few moments we ran.
14: We had come so far from back in August, when some didn’t even know our simplest plays, and we could barely complete a pass. Now we were prepared. It was no longer just going through motions, it was running every play like it was your last. Everyone could see as we sprinted, and put our blood and sweat on to that practice field one more time, that we could win this. We may be gigantic underdogs, but in our mind, we were the ones to be feared. As the second night’s practice came to an end, that same word rang not only through our ears, but into our bodies themselves, “WIN!” It was the final day of practice before we played Charleton, not wanting anyone to get injured it was uppers only. Meaning we did not hit, and only wore shoulder pads, helmets, and sweat pants. A Saturday morning, before the game, it was early, but everyone was awake and sharp. It was walkthrough day, no hitting, just walking through plays slowly, learning the exact holes and motions, and where to go. No one’s mind wandered, everyone was focused on this single moment, making tight cuts, and sharp passes.
15: Play after play, we felt time counting down until Sunday, when we would finally have our chance to prove what our hard work could do. “Bring it in boys.” For the final time before our game, we knelt before our coach, silent, ears open. “Tomorrow is the biggest day of your football careers boys, you will never forget this game. As long as you live you will tell the story, of how you went out there, looking straight into the face of the beast himself, and showed no fear. You will tell your grandkids of the day you made a final stand against your greatest enemy. The day you discovered that impossible was nothing, the day that David defeated Goliath.” With that my senses flashed, my heart was practically beating through my chest, I wanted it to be Sunday, I wanted my shot at Goliath. I wanted to win.
16: David vs. Goliath My journey is not a Greek myth, it did not take years to complete, and no dragons were defeated to complete it, but to me it has taught me more than any myth could. The journey began in August when the first team meeting was held, our coach told us, "This is the year boys, the year we win it all, and to get there we have to take down Charleton." Charleton was a powerhouse football team, they had not lost a single game in over three seasons and had won three straight superbowls. It was today that my journey to end this streak began. From training camp, through the season, to that final game, my journey began. It was the first of August and time for another Nashoba Chieftain American Youth football season. We ran sprints non-stop, agility drills, strength drills, pushups, situps, you name it. We sweat and worked hard our coaches preaching the entire time, "This is where we win the superbowl boys, right on this practice field."
17: At the time these words never sank in, I thought to myself, "how is it possible that we could beat a team who has not lost in three years by running around on a practice field." Day two we got our helmets, white with a Nashoba logo on the side. We wore these for the rest of training camp, increasing the difficulty of our already tiring drills. For an entire week in ninety degree summer weather we worked, for the following season, and to finally beat Charleton. Their field was a mess, it had rained the night before, the sidelines were mud and the field was wet, wind blew strong and cold, but we never felt any of it. All that mattered was winning. We arrived at the field half an hour before Charleton, and we were convinced that after all the blood and sweat we had put in since training camp, our practice would finally triumph just as coach had preached back in August. They scored on the first play of the game on a dive up the middle to go up 7-0.We returned the ball on a short kick to about the 40. Our offense did nothing however and we had to punt the ball back to Charleton. With plenty of time left in the half Charleton made another strong drive into the endzone to go up 14-0 at the half.
18: At halftime however our coach inspired us, he told us that this is what we have been training for, for months. That to quit now would be the biggest mistake of our lives. He preached that we could still win if we put everything we had left into this final half of football. They kicked off to us to open the half, we came out with fire and took it all the way back for a touchdown. As Eli sprinted into the endzone our team celebrated and screamed on the sideline. It was the first touchdown scored against Charleton all year, but then we looked back down the field. There was a flag down, holding the ref said. We ended up punting after three plays on that drive, still down 14-0. We held Charleton however and fought tooth and nail for the rest of the game. With less than five minutes left we got the ball back around our own 20 yard line. The play came in from coach, "29 Jet," a sweep to me to the left side. I looked into the stands to see my family watching, everyone was there, my cousins Joe and Chris who were the reasons I started to play football, my grandpa, my dad, and my uncle, all watching, waiting for me to do something.
19: The pitch was to me I broke one tackle and sprinted to the sidelines, juked another defender, spun back to the middle and didn't look back until I was in the endzone. I felt like a hero, my team and the crowd screamed. I turned around, and couldn't believe what I saw, two more yellow flags on the field, a block in the back this time. The score was still 14-0. The game would end this way, but we all knew what the score should have been. We were proud of the accomplishments we had made, and left the field with no doubt that we were good enough to have beat Goliath. | THE END