It was Sunday. People love Sundays. It’s a day most adults have off from work. Their kids are off of school. It’s considered a holy day. People go to church, wear their best clothes. It’s a day to relax and be worry-free. Unfortunately, May 14, 2017 was quite the opposite for me in terms of athletics.
It was Mother’s day. For some odd reason we had two games scheduled for a 7 on 7 tournament for football. Not sure whose idea that was, but needless to say most of the team didn’t show up. Quite honestly, I myself had been wishing I’d stayed home also.
Our first game started at 6:00 p.m.and we were playing Hersey. Realistically this team would never have been able to compete with us if we had our whole team there that night, much less in a real game with pads on. Of course, we didn’t have the whole team and we weren’t in pads, so that doesn’t mean much. I started the game at cornerback. The beginning of the game went just fine. Didn’t give up any catches for the first two series. Finally, on our third defensive series, the receiver (whom I covered the entire game) beat me by a step on a 9 route. Luckily I was able to recover and get enough contact to force the incompletion. However, things didn’t get much better from here. The kid kept running that 9 route on me over and over. He scored with it over and over. He was faster than me, I can give him that, but usually that isn’t a huge problem. I’ll admit I was having issues. I felt slow. I was slow getting up to the line. My reactions were slow. My breaks on the ball were slow. I was just slow. They were fast. They got up to the line and were set almost instantly after the last play.
“Set… Go” the quarterback would say.
Then the receiver would run that 9 route. I got burned. Then again next series.
9 route. Burned. Touchdown.
“Hey c’mon, you got it” I heard from the sideline. I gave back a nod.
9 route. Burned again. Touchdown again. It happened three times in the first half of that game. My frustration was growing. I almost took myself out of the game for good. It was insanely embarrassing, so embarrassing that I told one of the sophomores to take my spot for the last series of the half. I took the time to cool off and thought about how I’d do better next half. I didn’t.
I started giving up short routes. No big deal, at least they weren’t scoring. I was still extremely frustrated. At one point the kid caught a pass, and I didn’t get there in time to break it up. Instead I straight up tackled him to knock the ball loose. Unfortunately, you can’t do that in 7 on 7 since there’s no padding. It was totally instinctive though. I didn’t really intend to hurt him or anything, that’s just what I’d do in a real game. Anyway I got my first of many penalties for the night.
Things were pretty uneventful for the rest of the game. We were down two scores until our offense scored again with less than a minute to go. Hersey got the ball back and intended to just run out the clock.
“Let’s go, run a real play. Don’t just run the clock out” Cam said to the Hersey guys.
“Uh huh yes sir. Whatever” their center replied sarcastically.
Yeah come on. Run an actual play. I thought to myself. I was expecting another short route to just run the clock out, so I pressed the kid I was covering. Instead, I got my wish. 9 route. Burned. Touchdown.
That put me over the edge. I got up, angry as ever, and couldn’t think of anything to do except kick the little orange pylon across the field. I calmed down, told myself I’d do better next game, and got a drink.
The team we played next was much better than Hersey. I swear they had some grown-ass men playing on this team. Still, it was a team we would’ve beaten if everyone had been there. I still felt slow that game, especially with my reactions. The other team on the sideline let me know it. They chirped the whole time.
“Boy you can’t cover him, you slow as hell” a guy with the name “A-Dub” on the back of his jersey said to me. He wasn’t wrong.
Later, one of their players caught a pass in the middle of the field and juked out one of our younger guys pretty badly. I came up to the line on the next play and had a small chat with another one of their receivers.
“Hey, you check on ya teammate, bro?” he asked. “I think his ankles might be broken”.
“Looks fine to me. He’s still standing. Run another slant so you can go over that way and ask him yourself” I replied.
Shortly after that, a receiver caught a short pass while we were in zone coverage, so I came up and gave him a shove in the back rather than just tagging him.
“Oooh. There some anger in that push. He got somethin’ inside” A-Dub said.
“Yeah, his girl probably cheated on ‘em or somethin’” one of his teammates replied with a laugh. I ignored them. Back to the line. Next play.
They threw a flag on me on that next play. Short yardage situation. Press coverage. Receiver beat me to the inside and I didn’t have a choice.
“Stop holdin’ me, weak-ass” the receiver mumbled to me as he ran back to the line.
Yet another holding call the play after that. Me again.
“Holding on” the ref called out for the second straight time.
I really was embarrassed at this point. I really didn’t want to be there. The guys making comments on the sideline weren’t helping.
“Aw come on, ref” I yelled, disappointed and incredibly annoyed.
“You held ‘em. Stop tweakin’” Cam told me. “Just stay with him. You got it”.
“I can’t run press coverage without jamming the guy. It’s impossible. I’m giving him a clean release off the line from a goddamn foot away he’s gonna beat me every time” I argued.
“Well don’t worry about it. If you get scored on it’s no big deal. These games don’t matter to us anyway” he reassured me.
Cam was right. These didn’t matter to us. It was just practice. Just to learn. To improve. I had an embarrassing and frustrating couple of games nonetheless. Not my best Sunday 7’s performance ever, and especially disappointing after not giving up any catches the week before. It was probably better that I didn’t take myself out of the game. I was able to find some things I need to work on so I can improve my game and avoid the same mistakes in the future.