One of the varsity assistant coaches, Chris Hudson and I were talking in the hallway right outside the coach’s room. I can see clearly me sitting on one side of the hallway and him on the other. We both had our feet in the hall and players had to step over them. He said, "You'll never find something as unique as the few hours before a varsity high school football game," and he was absolutely, 100% right. I've had many good and bad things happen to me, but the hours just before a high school football game have never been duplicated, whether as a player or coach.
As more and more players show up and get ready, they start to put their shoulder pads with their jerseys out in the hallway. Some are putting athletic tape around their wrists, a few are flipping a football around, but they all have the same look. It's a look I'd imagine Pickett’s brigade had as they waited in the trees of Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg, or Easy Company as they prepared to parachute behind the German lines on June 6 of 1944.
It's something they've been training for, rehearsing, studying, and now the moment is finally here. Eventually the buses pulls up to take the team to the football field. Cheerleaders and managers pile in a van and we all head to the stadium. As we pull up there's still not really much talking. No one really knows where that balance is. You want to keep them loose but not where they lose focus. You want them to stay focused but not where they drive themselves insane with worry.
So, we would all get out and form a line two-by-two. I still get chills hearing the sounds of metal cleats on the sidewalk. Some sights and sounds have been imprinted on your memory, and that will always snap me back to these moments. As we’d go up the sidewalk and cross the street you start to hear more clearly the sound of the freshmen game. You hear the individual middle schoolers running around, parents cheering for their athletes and the announcer saying who just carried the ball for a 6 yard gain. Occasionally one of the players launches a "Let's go!" or "Get after it boys!" As the line builds, someone unlocks the gate and we’d pile through, walking down the steps right down the middle of the home crowd.