I grew up in a small town where Friday nights found us cheering for the Protection Panthers. In the 1970’s we had great football teams that regularly advanced to the 1A state play-offs. The whole town turned out for games. And during an away game, if a thief were so inclined, he could have made off with the whole town because as a town, we followed our team.
One of the reasons I immediately liked this town where Man of My Dreams grew up was because it, too, is a football town. And their school fight song is the same tune to one of our fight songs. (When the band revs up “On Wisconsin” I don’t hear the St. Francis Indian school song, I hear the words to On, Protection, even though I’ve lived here 20 years!)
There is just nothing better than Friday night lights on a small town football field where the whole town shows up to watch “their” team. The stands overflow with loyal Indian fans, many of whom once played on that same field. The crowd is filled with cheers and laughter and men reminiscing of their glory days on the field.
Tonight, I heard more than one person say this game was the best football game they’d ever seen.
It was a nail biter against a great Spearville Lancer team who came to win. With a 36-30 score, it truly came down to the last play in the final seconds of the game but the St. Francis Indians were victorious in snapping the Lancer’s 34 game winning streak.
But it wasn’t easy.
Both teams played hard. Both teams had penaltys and heart breaks. But neither team quit until the final buzzer. Both teams left it ALL on the field.
And I am so proud of them.
In a small town, you know people. Some you know better than others through work or church or if you have kids at home, through shared experiences of running concession stands and school parties. And if you don’t know the kids, you know the name or know the family. In the city, they talk about “creating community?” Here, we ARE community.
These young men have worked so hard. And they are such good kids. They play as a team.
We didn’t have the Lancer’s winning streak, but we, too, have had a winning season filled with lop sided scores. We 45-ed most of the games (The game is stopped if one team is 45 points ahead so most of the season, these boys didn’t even play a full game.)
I wasn’t sure what would happen when meeting a team also used to victory. When the score was close and the game was long.
They rose to the occasion and even when things didn’t go their way, they never lost their cool and they never quit. They stuck together and played as a team. They encouraged each other and kept playing.
And as we watched “our” boys get tired and when the QB went out with an injury, the crowd never quit positively cheering on their team.
The cheerleaders jumped higher and the band played louder and the other students cheered for their friends by name urging them to continue the fight.
It was everything good about sports with none of the negative.
If you’ve ever been to a sporting event where the crowd got ugly, yelling at the coaches or hollering at a mistake a kid made or hollering slurs against the refs, you know what I’m talking about.
It was the stuff of movies. An epic battle.
Both teams worthy of victory, but only one could win.
And I am happy to say, the Indians took home a well deserved victory as well as a really cool, Sub State trophy!
Congratulations to a very, very good Spearville Lancer team. You have no reason to hang your heads. You gave it your all.
But I’m so proud of this Sainty Indian team! You were a part of something epic tonight. Your heart, your strength, your tenacity, your digging down to persevere when your tired muscles wanted to quit are something to always hang onto and remember. Who knows, someday, you may sit in the stands of Greene Field and as you watch your sons play, you’ll tell stories about tonight. It is a tale worthy of telling.
Indians, your town is proud of you. No matter what happens next week, you are men of heart and you are Champions!
“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got.” 1 Cor 9: 24-25 The Message
Keep your eyes on the prize, Indians! On to State!