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.”