When Many Became One

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“Don’t let go,” three words that would resonate through the locker room before every game. Their meaning unknown to the outside world, but to us they were drive, courage, inspiration, and duty. Those words referred to tradition, the tradition of greatness in the Cactus High football program. This 2011 season we continued this tradition, not because we were the biggest but because we were determined to honor those who came before us. We did not want to be the ones to tarnish the good name of the program. We wished instead to be the harbingers of a new chapter in the program’s history, one that relied on devotion of the whole team not just a few individuals.

Loud music, terrible food, blistering sunlight, ice-cold showers, and worst of all 5:30 am wake up calls; yep, I was at football camp. A week designed to weed out the uncommitted, which is exactly what it did. If it wasn’t the metal music as a wakeup call it was the four, two-hour practices we had throughout the day. The thing that kept me going was that I knew that everyone around me was going through the exact same thing. Soon, no one was sitting alone at meals and no one was singled out. Through our hardships, trust and friendship were built, and eventually we became a single unit looking out for one another, determined to make it through the week. We held the bonds forged throughout our experience at camp from our first game to our very last. This game happened to be the epitome of high school football; the State Championships.
Pressure was lifted as we stepped out onto the field; all the hype was gone. We all knew what had to be done, and nothing would come between us. Tonight there would be no “Cowboys” (individuals) vying for their time in the spotlight, only 60 young men working together as a solitary unit to achieve their goal of immortality. This immortality, making Cactus High history, would be gained by victory in tonight’s state championship game. We were off to a good start, everyone was doing their own responsibilities, and we managed to go into half time with the lead. Inside the locker room there were no cheers, only silence. We were focused on the second half already. We went over what needed improvement and made changes to the game plan, but three words kept surfacing, “Don’t let go.” With those three words, we rallied and ran out onto the field. The second half appeared as if it would be a repeat of the first, but then the momentum began to shift in the other teams favor. Heads held high, we challenged them with all our might, but it was just not enough, and we ended up losing the battle. Entering the locker room this time was different; there were no smiles.
There are no words to describe my feelings about the loss, but I could not help but feel grateful for just having the opportunity to be a part of something so extraordinary. I got on that bus not with my team, but with my family. The men I saw were not the same as they were six months ago, we went to battle and experienced both victory and defeat, bled together, and restored hope in one another when all seemed lost. We brought home a trophy, albeit not the one we wanted, but a trophy nonetheless which will join the plethora of awards Cactus High School already possesses. Our team, fueled by the Cobra Tradition, was transformed from a team deemed unworthy of the playoffs, to a formidable opponent with an equal shot at the State Championship.





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