Thanks for the ride
Monday I went up to the FAC to do my post-season interview with Coach Walker, and say my good-byes for the season.
As I was walking along the concourse by the concession stand, looking out at the football field and the stadium alongside, I couldn't help but feel, for the umpteenth time, the luck that I have to be included in the Blair Oaks family.
There was disappointment Saturday in the loss to Burroughs and the shenanigans that went along with it, but those feelings are only temporary. On a day like Monday, it was a time to look back and take stock, and, aprapos to this week, give thanks for the things we had seen over the previous 14 weeks.
After the jamboree, I wasn't sure what the Falcons had this year. A new coaching staff, a new system, a new way of doing so many things. The Falcons looked far from smooth on that night...and then gave up a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the first game of the season.
But as it proved, those first play/first drive jitters were just bumps in the road for what soon proved to be a typical Falcons juggernaut. Maybe I shouldn't say typical. Of all the teams I have covered, since 2001, this Falcons team might have been the most talented offensive bunch ever. Look at the weapons...from Closser and Alexander's speed, to Schell's athleticism and strength to Luebbering's size and soft hands and yards after the catch. What high school teams have you seen with four first-option receivers?
Then there was the running game with Bubba and Cody...Mr. Inside and Mr. Inside-but-only-faster. Who knew that a 165-pound fullback would be such a horse, and that Cody would turn into the kind of feature back that every high school team needs.
And of course, tieing it all together, Jordan Hair. What high school quarterback do you know completes nearly 70 percent of his passes and can turn any play into a 70 yard touchdown with his feet? Blair Oaks has been known for its great quarterbacks over the years, but this past season might have been as impressive a season as I've ever seen from a Falcon quarterback. This was a young man who grew up a lot, took the coaching he was given and turned into what I believe is the best Class 3 quarterback in the state. He was the best we saw, by far.
Then there were the guys up front...and among the linebackers on defense. These guys were strong, and tough and fast...and despite some early protests...in magnificent shape. Stockman and Herst....the Tackle Twins...Leukenhoff (are you sure there aren't any more?)...Cox, Cumpton the Track Star, Heath Branch, who turned out to be such a beast, The Mudd Man, and of course...my favorite undersized defensive tackle and offensive guard...Riley Boeckman. Super sophs Boessen and Cobb...and Mr. Versatility, Jake Van Ronzelen.
I also want to give a shout out to guys like Logan Moore and Sam Prenger and Dalton Lage and Jeremy Forck and James Bishop...seniors who made it through all these years and stuck out the hard times. They never were stars or starters, but the fact they continued to suit up and work at the game makes them special. They never gave up.
You've got to hand it to these kids, they worked their tails off this year, and you could just see the discipline and the hard work they went through in each and every one of the kids who came into any game. There was a reason why our second, third and fourth strings rolled up points when they went into games...they were prepared. And that goes right to Coach Walker and his staff. Coach Walker may seem laid back and relaxed when you talk to him away from the field. But there is a fire burning within him that really comes out once the players hit the practice field or a game starts. It works its way through the program.
And when you get around coaches Padgett and Sampson and Obermiller and Hickman, you can see where he gets it from. These guys might be a little old school, but there isn't anything they haven't seen before, and have been a perfect complement to coaches Duke and Linnenbrink and Mingucci and Sullivan and Stegeman.
While I'm tipping my cap, I also want to thank all of the folks who helped sponsor the webcasts this past year. it was a record breaker as far as support, and I couldn't have done it without great folks like Rusty Richter at Capitol Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep; Dean Cooper at Brydon, Swearingen and England; Tim Van Ronzelen at Cook, Vetter, Doerhoff and Landwehr; our loveable Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher; our original sponsors, Mid America Bank; Kristi and Greg Kemna, who've been with me about as long as the bank; Amy and Tom Fifer from Weathercraft, Inc.; Bryan and Cindy Luebbering at Luebbering Oil; The Colonel, Joel Metzner, at Eco Water; Mary Ann Gelven, John Klebba and all the folks at Legends Bank; Tim Eubank at American Family Insurance; Gary and Dottie Bemboom of Bee Line Stores; and Ken Theroff and Jayne Dunkman and everybody at Jefferson Bank.
Again, these folks are my heroes and and it's my hope you get a chance to thank them for their support of Blair Oaks football.
And while we're handing out kudos and thanks...Paul Mudd...the Music Man in the press box. He's also helped us on many occasions with internet and computer issues. And then of course...Ryan Fick, Gary Verslues and Jim Jones...the pillars on which I lean. Thanks for another great year!
Ed and I will wander on our way for yet another year. Don't be surprised to see us pop up at a basketball game here and there, and maybe even a baseball game come spring. I keep saying that would be a blast.
15 football seasons down... Blair Oaks feels like home. Ed and I thank you for allowing us to become family.