I’ve been talking about the local high school football team a lot over the past two months–it’s been an exciting year, watching kids I’ve known since preschool and kindergarten compete like the fine young men they’ve become, and I feel compelled to keep you informed. Just in case.
There was a considerable supply of joy in Mudville on Friday night, and the local High School team fought it’s way through the opening round of the playoffs. It is a big deal, considering this particular group of kids has never been wildly successful, but they pulled together at the right time, with a effort worthy of high praise. We’re a small, rural college town on the periphery of the powerful, Pittsburgh-based WPIAL league, with just 38 guys on the roster.* Usually, when it comes time for the playoffs, you hear a lot of “almosts” and “nearlys” around town, but this is a rare year. We have a core of exceptional talents and a whole lot of kids who have worked hard year-round to learn the skills they need to do their part. It has been an honor watching them reach their potential after a rocky start.
On Friday night, the sky thick with a drizzling rain that verged on sleet, the guys took it to a talented team from West Mifflin, a team which, by statistics, seemed virtually identical to ours–with the difference being that we’ve been powered by an accomplished passing game, while West Mifflin brought in a 1700+ yard running back and a team know for it’s speeding ground game. Our team responded with a slug to the jaw as West Mifflin clamped down on our star receivers, running the ball down their throats all evening. When Old Road Apples favorite Connor Tshudy went down with an injury after pounding his way to 50 yards on 8 carries in the first half, the next guy up came in after halftime and got things done in a big way.
At the end of the night, the good guys won 42-12, and will move on next Friday to face Central Valley, a juggernaut of a team with D1 recruits, the number one seed in the league, and a #4 overall ranking in the state going into last weekend’s games. On paper, it doesn’t seem like our guys have a chance, but I wouldn’t bet against the team I’ve been watching this season.
*Not that we’re complaining…some kids do more with a whole hell of a lot less. (updated link to follow tonight)