Football is Life

January 8, 2008
By Andrew Cabaj, Clarkston, MI

“To most people football is just a game. These people don’t understand what football is all about. It’s a year long goal to be the best you can be. You have to eat, sleep and breathe football. Years are invested into one thing, to win a state championship. When a kid puts on his football pads for the first time, they dream of playing varsity football in the state championship game. They look up to the varsity players. They are their heroes. So they work hard to be like heroes. They want to be the best. They want to part of something that is far greater than themselves. 79 hearts, one heart beat. If one person fails the team fails, if one person is weak the team is weak. Welcome to the begging off the end for you seniors and for you juniors, welcome to the greatest challenge of you life, welcome to Auburndale Chippewa Football” said Coach Miller. It was the most inspirational speech I have heard Coach say. He put his heart and soul into the speech. He already announced to the team that this was going to be his last year coaching. He came back for one more year because he believed that our team could take us all the way, and we will win it all.
The quarterback has to be the leader of the team on and off the field. I will be the starting quarter back for are team. Armstrong, remember that, I will be famous some day. I have my best friend since the fourth grade with me, our starting running back Cal Tice, aka Cold Train. He is the star of our team, he is the third best running back in the state. We have many other good athletes too, Frank Johnson tackle, Ryan Dunn corner back/ wide receiver, and Brett Williams our middle linebacker. All summer we have been working hard in the weight room to prepare ourselves for this season. As the day of hell week finally arrives I feel a sense of anticipation in the air. We have waited our whole lives for this year. Now it’s finally here. Hell is a grueling week of conditioning that really puts your body and mind to the test. As we walk onto the field we feel proud to be on the team that we are on and we are excited to get this season started. We look around at each other and start nodding our heads, its time. The whistle blows “Let’s do it boys” I scream, the season has finally started.
Hell week was horrible. You have to run and run and run some more. Not only is there running but there are a lot of physical exercises like push ups and wall sits. It takes great mental strength to keep going when your body is screaming no, when your body is in so much pain that it hurts to walk. But you don’t have to walk, you need to run. Coaches yelling with such passion and anger in their voices. “You have two speeds slow and slower!” and ‘My grandma is faster than you!”, “Had one too many Twinkies didn’t you?” this is just a few things that the coaches said. After our last hell week was over we all celebrated and went to the Chinese buffet. Man did it taste good. After working so hard and loosing some weight, it was time to gain some back. After the last day of hell week I was so hungry and the food tasted extra special since it was our last hell week. Coaches said we had a fantastic week and it was a great start to our season.
Then after hell week comes camp. Every year we go up to some military camp and practice there. We practice three times a day with two meetings with the coaches in- between. We go to camp because its supposed to be a team building experience, and it would be pointless driving to practice then home, back to practice then home again, then some more practice. But camp is very tiring and is a lot of hard work. When camp is done we start two a days with pads. I don’t know which is worse! First hitting day I am nervous. I don’t want to let the team down and this is my first chance to really show what kind of quarterback I can really be for our team. Our first hit day is like Christmas morning to the players. It is one of the best days of the year. This is when players have to man up and become the players they worked so hard in the off season to be. The first practice is offense and defense is in the afternoon. After just two days of hitting we have a team scrimmage to see who came to really play this year. The blue team was stacked and my team red team was predicted to lose. But we came out strong and had a big upset. The next week we had our scrimmage against other football teams. St Joseph and Williamston was there. We were extremely sloppy, but pulled off winning every scrimmage. Coach was upset with us. We had to practice the next day because he said we played so poorly. But I thought the team played really well for only practicing with pads for a week and a half.
We opened the season with a bang. We won our first game 35 to 14 against the Westdale Red Hawks. Cal Tice led our team with ninety yards rushing and three touchdowns. I threw for a touchdown and ran the ball in for one. It was a good way to start the year. I did throw one interception though and got sacked three times. But mostly it was a good win. We have to play better then we did this week to beat the Oakdale Oxen. We beat Oakdale, and rolled through the rest of the season beating every team that they threw at us. Homecoming week was a big success. We played a really good team in the Troy Colts. It was a hard battle, and I had the best game of my career that night. I threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions, we won 38 to 28. Cal Tice also contributed with a touchdown and one hundred yards rushing.
The last game of the season was against our arch rivals the Lake Orion Dragons. If we win this game, we will have an undefeated season. We will have the first undefeated season in a decade if we win Friday. We are one of two team in the state that has not lost a game. We came with so much energy and so much passion that we blew them away in the first quarter. By the end of this massacre we had beaten them by a score of 48 to7. It was absolutely awesome. Cold Train just dominated the game with five rushing touchdowns and two hundred yards rushing. I had my first rushing touchdown of my career and also threw for one. I did throw two interceptions, but it didn’t matter. We won the game and now are undefeated.
Now everything I just told you has led us to this point, the playoffs. I just brought you though the journey of our season. Now comes the climax, lets get ready for playoff football. Our first game is against the Frampton Rocks. They have a great quarterback over there that is getting a full ride scholarship to LSU. “Hey coach how do you think we will do against Frampton?”, I asked, “Well all we have to do is play our game and we will do just fine. It’s our first playoff game in a couple of years, so I expect some jitters, but get over it quick ok?” I thought over what he said for a second. “Yes coach, no problem.” As we run out on the field I get this huge rush. It’s slowly raining and the way the light hits the rain it looks like a shot from a movie. We are kicking off first. The ball floats in the air. The crowd is going crazy. The playoffs have finally begun. The kick return man runs the ball all the way back for a touch down. The high I was just feeling, disappeared. It’s real. Frampton came to play. So our kick return team starts to get ready. The crowed is stunned. Our coach is so mad he’s speechless. He realizes just like me this could be our last game, ever. Our man, Cal Tice, ran the ball back to the 35 yard line. “Our time!” I screamed onto the field. I drop back to pass and throw an interception right off the bat. The great season I just had means nothing if we lose this game. He ran it all the way back for a touchdown. This was just the beginning of our worst half of football ever. Our offensive couldn’t move the ball. At the end of the half we were losing 28-0.
As we walked into the locker room, our heads are down. There was already a feeling that we lost the game. Then all of a sudden something snapped in my brain. This wasn’t going to be the way that my football career ends. We will go down with a fight, and we die trying if we have to. “This is our time!” I screamed. “We will not lose this game; we have worked to hard to get blown out by a crap team in the first round. I will not stand for this, I will go out and fight and I will succeed who’s with me?” I was screaming on the top of my lungs. I have finally become the leader I always envisioned myself to be. I walked out onto the field a couple of minutes early. The team shocked by what just happened followed me. We went on the field and started warming up off to the side where the band wasn’t playing. When the other team came out of the locker room and saw us already warmed up, they knew that they were in for a battle. The opening kickoff sailed through the end zone. As the offensive ran onto the field, I went to the huddle and said “This is our half. Let’s get it done.” We break the huddle and make this slow dramatic walk up to the line of scrimmage. “Hike” I scream. I drop back to pass, I throw deep. The ball sails through the air and hit my wide receiver on a streak route. He breaks a tackle and runs 80 yards for a touchdown. I look straight at the other team and scream “Game on.”
It’s now 28-7 and our defensive just came up with a big stop. I hand the ball of to Cold Train and he breaks through the line and gets tripped up on their 40 yard line. A 20 yard run for the Cold Train. I drop back to pass and see the tight end, Wilson , open for a touchdown. 28- 14 going into the fourth quarter. Then Jack, our safety, intercepts the ball and runs for a touchdown. 28-21, our crowd is going crazy. The other quarterback drops back to pass, SACKED! Its fourth down and their punting the ball, we have a chance to take the lead. They punt the ball. It’s in the air. Dunn catches it, he’s at the 50, the 40, the 30, the 20 yard line, touchdown! What a run by Dunn. He broke three tackles for the score. The game is all tied up 28-28. There’s 4 minutes left in the game. We kick the ball off and it sails into the end zone. This is it, our whole season is up to these last couple of minutes. Their QB steps under the center, and just like that, he’s sacked. Time is slowly ticking off the clock. They run back up to the line of scrimmage, the quarterback starts making the signals, and hike. The QB scrambles around and forces the ball up, and it’s intercepted. He returns the ball to the 8 yard line. There are 2 and a half minutes left of the game. I drop back to pass, I see Cal Tice open in the flat. He catches the ball at the 5 yard line and jumps over the tackler and runs the ball in for a touchdown. There are two minutes left after the kickoff. They returned the ball to their 32 yard line. They run a screen pass for about a 8 yard gain. Then they run a draw for 3 yards and a first down. This stops the clock. There is one minute and 30 seconds left on the clock. They throw a slant pass for another 15 yard gain. They walk back to the line with the clock stopped. They drop back to pass and the QB is sacked, loss of 5. The time goes down to 40 seconds before they could spike the ball. They drop back again and he’s sacked again. The clock keeps running down. There’s no time to spike the ball. It’s fourth down. The QB says hike with 10 seconds left on the clock. I’m all excited, already congratulating my teammates for the good win. The quarterback is scrambling around to buy for more time. He throws the ball. It sails for almost an eternity. Its jump ball in the end zone and they caught it. Well I tell the team lets prepare for overtime. But no, they rush up to the line. They are going for the win. They are going for two. They hike it real quick. Our defensive isn’t ready. My heart stops. My whole football career could be over in about 10 seconds. They hand it off in the middle and make it game over. We lose 36-35. We lose in the first round of the playoffs. All I have been talking about all year is wining a state championship and we lose in the first round. Their team starts rushing the field for such a big upset. I drop to the ground and start crying. We didn’t even come close to our goal in winning a state championship.
At first I was devastated. I thought that everything that I have worked for was for nothing. All those years of playing didn’t mean anything. And then I realized that it wasn’t for nothing. I had a great time playing with friends that I will always remember. That it taught me hard work, and to fight through the pain no matter how painful it is. I will never forget my football experience.

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