4. Marks blogDear 2012 Lawrence Park Panthers;

It’s me. Your coach.

I need to issue you an apology.

The reason you aren’t playing in today’s championship game for bragging rights in Toronto high school football is because of me.

You worked so hard all year. Running hills. Doing Train Tracks. Military Mile. Hitting the sled. You showed up at most every practice rain or shine. You listened and you learned. You leaned on your brothers for support and led by example when it mattered most. You endured injuries from opposing players, insults by opposing students, and insane  conditioning sessions from my fellow coaches.

In short, you deserved better.

It all came down to this. We were down by a point last Friday. The city semi-finals against a team we haven’t beaten in years. With a minute left in the game. We started on our own ten yard line. Went backwards to our five. Then we went forwards. In an unyielding fashion.

Remarkably we were at the opponent’s forty yard line with time for three or four more plays. The opponent was panicked. We were in control. We needed to get in position for a FG to win or a single to tie.

That is when I blew it. All season long I had felt pretty good about my game management. A little secret for you boys, I worked on it during the off-season. Sound pathetic? A grown man learning how to be a better volunteer high school football coach in the off-season? Well you need to know that’s how much I love coaching. That’s how much I love LP. That’s how much I love you fellas.

It paid off in our season opening upset. It paid off in other game situations. I felt good about my presence of mind in most game situations.

But somehow, some way, it failed me in this situation. Instead of playing the percentages and working our way into position for a kicking score, I called for a deep pass. It failed. I called for another deep pass. It failed too. I put our awesome punter in the challenging position of having to hammer a fifty yard kick. Amazingly he almost got it there. But agonizingly the ball rolled out of bounds around their two yard line. The clock hit zero. Our chance disappeared. We had lost, the season was over.

We had won a total of five games this year. That’s pretty good. We upset our staunch rivals. We claimed back our rivalry trophy from a neighbouring school. And we almost went to the city finals.


To the guys who are graduating, I will miss you. You have been one of the most special groups I have ever coached. It pains me to no end to think I deprived you of the chance to play in a championship game. It reminds me of losing my own last high school football game 8-6 to our hated rival Barrie Central. The irony of this game being against Toronto’s “Central”, Central Tech, makes me want to puke nails.

I have spent every waking moment since being obsessed by those last few calls. Why didn’t I call a running play? Why didn’t I implement one of the wrinkles we worked on in practice? Why didn’t I call a wheel route versus a slant’n go on that last pass?

I am sure you have probably asked the same of me in your own head. I wish I had an answer. I wish I could wind the clock back a week instead of ahead an hour.

I wish I could offer up something better than, “I’m sorry.”

7 thoughts on “Dear 2012 Lawrence Park Panthers

  1. Mark,

    Hang tough my friend. Tough loss… I feel for your team.

    The boys were lucky to have such a committed coach!

    There is always next year!


  2. Mark

    Sounds like your team has an amazing coach.

    One of our athletes on the ESTEEM TEAM, Sheldon Benoit, played D-Line for the Eskimos and I thought of his story when I read yours.

    Sheldon had infamously missed a crucial tackle in the last minute of a game that cost his team the Grey Cup.

    The next day he was ready to quit football when his Coach, Tom Higgins, called and told him:

    “Shelly, you had busted your butt and made thousands of GREAT plays all season long that helped get our team in a position to win the championship. Don’t let one bad play overshadow your successes and dictate who you are. I congratulate you on a great season and look forward to seeing you at next year’s training camp.

    That next season Sheldon returned to the Eskimos and lead his team to a Grey Cup Championship. (Sadly defeating my Alouettes) 🙂

    Sounds like Coach Harrison’s team had a great season too and you and the boys should be proud. Congrats Mark!


    1. Awesome story!

      Didn’t Higgins end up getting canned and Danny M won the Cup with his players?

  3. Coach,

    Whether you’re right or wrong, and even with such a open wound stinging the hell out of you, you’re desire to take ownership of this away from the players is more than admirable. Takes a special coach and man to deliver this message. But it was an incredible season Mark playing with the “bigs” in Tier I and much more than holding our own. We…are…there. Now we have to stay there. We’ll get that trophy Mark, we’ll get it!

    Chuck Richardson

    Lawrence Park Football Alumni Association

  4. Mark:

    a great letter and inspirational on so many levels. This is truly what makes sport GREAT! I think your team will take away a great deal more than a win or loss.. a life lesson that some decisions good/ bad or indifferent can make a significant outcomes both on the field and in life. Sorry that you did not get to take the win but just imagine how the next BIG win will feel!

    Good luck

  5. Dear Coach,

    It’s not always easy making decisions in the heat of battle and to publish an apology like this takes a lot of guts. I don’t even know you and I can tell that the senior football program at LPCI is in good hands.

    On November 17 members of the 1982 Lawrence Park Panthers are getting together to mark 30 years since we won the championship. Although the championship is an excuse to get together I think the real reason we are coming together is because of the great memories we share of playing football at Lawrence Park. Personally I know I would have those great memories whether we won the championship or not and I am grateful to my coaches for making that possible.

    I have no doubt that you are providing the same for your players and in the end that’s what really counts. I think Chuck is right and that trophy will come, but in the mean time just keep being a great coach and your players will be grateful for years.

    Tim Leon
    1982 Lawrence Park Panthers

  6. I have never read something that is more open and honest. The sting of defeat is tough enough but you’ve taken it on yourself, that takes a real man.

    I can’t wait till next season when hopefully my son makes the senior team at LP and he has another great coach!

    Being at every junior practice I saw the way you work your team and I look forward to Zach learning from you.

    All my respect,

    Robert Boyer

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