Time to turn the page
If there's one thing you learn in covering sports for more than 35 years it's that nothing stays the same. Great teams, great times, great players, coaches, friends come and go. They have to...it's the way things work...it's nature.
When I heard through outside sources that Brad Dehle was stepping down as Blair Oaks football coach Thursday evening...I was shocked, even a little saddened and hurt. This had come out of nowhere as far as I knew. But now, looking back...that was a little bit of a selfish and naive reaction that I should know better. Brad has to do what he has to do for his family and his future. Any of us would do the same. Now...we have a little time to reflect before starting a new chapter.
I met Brad on a steamy July day in a little windowless, airless, office in the basement of the gym. He was planning out summer camp...and was a little nervous around a microphone and recorder. But he was sincere that this was th eplace for him and his family. He knew the challenge ahead...he knew the expectations...that in his first year at a new school...he was expected to win a state championship.
Then the injuries and the illnesses started happening. There was the loss to St. Francis Borgia. I sat next to him on the grass on the hill overlooking the stadium that night. I wondered if he felt pressure...but outwardly Brad was consistent...he couldn't wait for the next practice, the next game. He was disappointed but nothing was going to stop him and this team.
You think back about that 2006 team...and you remember the dome and the celebrations and the great games. But you also remember Red missed a bunch of games with mono...or whatever it was. Henke partially tore his ACL...and David Nicoleascu started a game at quarterback. Brandan Otto was lost ofr the seasonin week four. Brent Thomas got hurt and was probably not 100 percent even when he got back...and Derek Shikles also missed a couple of games.
But the kids and Brad just kept coming up with ways to win. Doug Buehrle took over in the offensive backfield and Justin Eiken emerged as a weapon. You also have to remember that Blair Oaks fell behind in every playoff game after Centralia...but somehow you always knew things were going to be alright.
And I guess looking back on the nine teams that Brad coached...that is perhaps the one thing that I will remember about all of them. The Falcons were very rarely out of games...they never gave up. When a big play had to be made, they almost always made it. Brad always credited the kids and their upbringings and their families for their great attitudes. And a lot of that is true...but a lot of that also goes to Brad. I mean, Ed and I still laugh about the "Miracle in the Mud" the hook and ladder play at the end of the first half at South Callaway in the state playoffs. Then there was the "Great Escape" against California two years ago...another hook and ladder...and Haydn Lock's jump pass to Corbin Singer that finally won that game at Palmyra. I could go on and on...but we all have our favorites.
So Coach...I'm gonna miss ya, ya little bald lug. All of Falcon Nation is gonna miss you...all your players, coaches, and fans. I'm gonna miss our weekly interviews that always turned into half hour discussions of football and life. I'm gonna miss your dad...God Bless him...and our pregame candy ritual. Ted LePage founded this progam on excellence...you cemented it. An era has ended at Blair Oaks...now its up to the players and the families of the players yet to come to make sure that the excellence continues.
God Bless you and your family Brad...see if you can do something about that press box down at Waynesville will ya?
Nature has worked its course. History has been made. Time to turn the page.