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Random Thoughts for Random People

127

For reasons that are a mystery to everyone, including myself, I have been thinking about my so-called glory days playing high-school football at Waynesboro High.  Whenever my best friend and I get together we can talk for hours about individual plays that happened almost 15 years ago…specifically during my senior year (his Junior).

We had the smallest offensive line in our division.  This was a source of pride for my teammates and I because we were also one of the more dominant offensive lines, even with a 149 lbs center (that is not a typo).  Though everyone would agree that our defence was the reason we won games and ended up in the playoffs that year.

For our final practice we had 21 healthy players.  A quick count will show tht that is just shy of the number of players you need to have full practices.  We had a coach line up at safety for the scab squad* defense and we didn’t even try to practice for the suicide squad**.  A coach was our regular scab squad QB, so there was no need to change for the starting defense.

But what I remember best are some of the plays.  My best friend played left tackle and I was the right guard.  However, I was a backup to the right tackle, left tackle and left guard and he was the backup to the center (I would take his place when the center went out).  So we did a fair bit of playing next to each other.

Rockers

Neither of us were starters on defense, so we would play Center and Guard on the scab squad.  I was back-up to the nose tackle, so in essence I got to spend the entire practice hitting the guy who took my job.  He was little but had a lot of heart.  Honestly there were no hard feeling about him taking the job.  I was already a starter on the other side of the ball and going iron man*** isn’t as fun as it sounds.  Anyway, if we were running to my side of the ball Cory and I would make a call of “Rockers”  which pretty much meant to knock the nose-guard off his rocker.  It was fun, but throughout the regular season, there was never a good opportunityto make the call in a real game.  We played next to each other sometimes, but we bothknew when the call was appropriate, and it just never was.  Finally, in our one (and only) playoff game the starting left guard got hurt and I moved over to Cory’s side.  The call was for a sweep to the left (a 127 in our playbook) and the opposing tackle lined up right between us.  I made the call and we both started to smile.  The poor guy’s eyes got REALLY big…we only pushed him back about 15 yards. 🙂

Good Job

The playoff game was against Handley High School.  They went on to the semi-finals that season, and we were beating them at half time.  But we just ran out of gas.  Almost all game long I was blocking the same guy (not the guy from the last story.)  This guy was 6’4″ and went on to play for UVa (My second player of the season with that distinction…neither graduated).  But I kept him in check all game long.  When we shook hands, he patted me on the head and said “Good job 6-4”.  The opposing coach called me out by number also.  It was the first time that someone on the other team had personally acknowledged me.  I don’t know where he is now.  I don’t know his name.  But I hope he knows how much that meant to me.

Broadway

My coach was famous for calling fake punts and kick-offs.  We would name them after the team we were playing that week (we put in a new fake punt every other week and a fake kick-off every three or four weeks).  I don’t remember most of them, but I do remember “Broadway”.  My junior year I had been killed at Broadway.  We won the game, but I spent most of my time on the ground.  That game was one of my motivations for doubling my leg strength and almost doubling my upper body strength in the off-season.  Unfortunately the guy I played against graduated, but his replacement felt my pain.  It was possibly kismet that it happened to be my 18th birthday, and I was captain.  The captain was announced by the coach every week based on performance from the previous week.  The coach claimed that he didn’t know it was my birthday, I was captain because I was one of the few people who had a good game against R.E. Lee the previous week (of course I have a story…actually two). 

When we kicked our first punt, I was supposed to shed my blocker and then go hit somebody.  However, the guy (#44) was really strong and had great technique.  I ended up on the ground.  The second time we punted was a fake…to my side.  This guy had kicked my butt the first time and now I was supposed to block him, from a standing position?  But I had noticed something.  When the ball was snapped, he locked on to my shoulder pads and stared in to my eyes.  So, for the second punt, I just stood there.  He stared in to my eyes as my teammate ran right past him on his was to a first down.  I didn’t move a muscle, yet successfully blocked my man. 🙂

Flip

I said I had a couple of stories from the R.E. Lee game and this is the first.  I was playing nose guard (before I lost my job…my replacement had to get his grades up).  The left guard on the other team pulled off to his left.  I was playing right over top of him on the play, so I pulled out to chase him.  Their QB had also rolled out to that side and went to throw the ball down field.  The guard was there to protect him.  I realized I couldn’t get past the guard before the ball was gone, so I jumped and tried to swat at the ball.  The guard caught me by the legs and I flipped over him.  My friend’s father used to say that if your rear-end was above your head you were in trouble…I don’t remember landing.  The pass was completed for a touchdown.  I was only about three inches from the ball when it was released.  We lost by 14 points, so that exact play didn’t actually change the game…but still.

Later that week they had to forfeit because they had an academically ineligible player play in the game when the game was already out of reach.  Kinda sucks for them.  They would have made the playoffs instead of us had they not been forced to forfeit even though it made no difference in the game. 

But that isn’t where the story ends.  You see, I was attending the Central Shenandoah Valley Regional Governor’s School (CSVRGS, but now only SVGS).  This was a county-wide initiative to teach the cream of the crop from math, science and technology at a central location.  R.E. Lee and WHS were both member schools.  And the guy who flipped me was also a student. 

A Host of Little Giants…

 The second story from the Lee game was actually relayed to me by my father.  The R.E. Lee game was one of the few games we had that was on the radio.  My father listened to the announcer while at the game.  That game I had seven tackles, three for a loss.  What was funny was that for each of my tackles the radio host said “A Host of Little Giants on the tackle.”  Specifically, they went for a two-point conversion.  I went all the way around the center to make a beautiful tackle.  Yet “A host of little giants” made the tackle. My father was ready to storm the press box.

The Lye Game

Wilson Memorial High School was to WHS what… Well, I was going to say the Redskins were to the Cowboys.  But the Redskins only lost 11 years in a row.  WMHS lost for 23 consecutive years to WHS at the time I was in school.  In fact, the last time WMHS had beaten WHS was when our lineman coach was the QB for WMHS.  (The streak has ended, and I don’t think it reached 30 years…now it is about the opposite).

My senior year there was one guy we were worried about.  Matt Robinson was 320 lbs with some muscle.  The week before we had played Charlottesville against another future UVa player.  During the Charlottesville game the 149 lbs center, Keith, and I had arranged to line call for a reach block.  If it was going left, I would reach the nose guard and he would release on the linebacker.  The other way, we would switch rolls.  It worked great.  The first play of the game Matt lined up at nose guard.  The play was to the right.  We called for the reach and Keith picked him up by himself…AND KIETH TOOK HIM!!!  On the way back to the huddle I asked if he could handle the reach in the future.  He just kept saying “He is a bug dude”. After that play, Matt moved out to Defensive End, so we never had to worry about the call again.

That isn’t the story I wanted to tell.  Before the game, they had covered the field in Lye.  Whenever we landed there was a cloud of dust.  This was a problem for me.  I wore contact lenses during the games.  The lye got in my eyes and it burned sooooo bad.  I wasn’t good about keeping them clean.  I now have a huge sensitivity to light.  I can’t figure out which was the greater factor…the Lye or my lack of cleaning.

That isn’t the story either.  By the fourth quarter we had the game pretty well handled.  As a result, the second string was in on both sides.  Cory and I made the calls on defense because we were the only ones who kinda knew the signals.  On offense, Cory took over at Center and I moved to Right tackle.  There was a call for a 124 waggle (Right guard pulls left, QB rolls to that side after a play-action with an option to run).  Our backup QB gained fifty yards on that play.  Horney (that was his name) was not the fastest of guys (our starter could beat almost anybody down the field).  Cory and I had straight-up blocks that play.  Both of us were starters that were just out of position.  So the poor guys on the other side didn’t stand much of a chance.  About twelve yards down field Cory blocked the guy in to my left knee.  Though I finished the game, that is the only injury I have ever had in a game…and my best friend did it. 

127

As I mentioned previously, I was the right guard.  I also mentioned that if the right guard pulls to the left on a sweep to that side, it was called a 127 in our playbook (or a 127x depending on who he was supposed to block). 

The overall perception in football is that if a Lineman runs five yards, the play is past him.  After all, it takes a lot longer to push a guy five yards than to carry a ball ten yards.  The exception is the 127.  It requires a lineman to run down field to make a block.

We were playing Harrisonburg High school.  Harry High was not talented that season, but they stayed competitive by using trick plays and taking some of the sting out of aggressivedefenses (like our’s).  We won the game on a trick play (our wing back through a touchdown to our back-up QB (who was also our starting split end) after receiving a hand-off from our starting QB.

On an earlier series, our running back got injured (broke his arm…out for the season).  When our back-up came in we ran the same play 10 times in a row.  Can you guess which play?  Did you guess 127?  Good guess!  We got to the one yard line.   I don’t remember being tired…I don’t remember ever being tired during a game.  But the coaches took me out anyway.  They scored a touchdown after I ran the same play 10 times in a row (OK, it might have only been eight…or six). 

On one of the plays the safety tried to take me on.  The coaches would assign points for plays and provide star stickers for the helmets for every five points earned.  They would also give skull and cross bones for each big hit…called a POW.  That block was the only POW ever given out for a block.  When we watched teh tape, one of my teammates said “He stepped on his foot”.  For the record, I didn’t, and he knew it.  It got a good laugh…from me too (and I didn’t have a sense of humor).

I could go on and on and on (as if I haven’t already).  But I think this is a good start.

* Scab Squad – The second or third team players that practiced against the starters.  There were many advantages to being on the scab squad.  For example, i got to play fullback my Junior year on the scab squad…which was the only time I got to touch the ball.

** Suicide Squad – The Punt or Kickoff teams were referred to as the Suicide squad.  You would have to be a little crazy to run as fast as you can 50 yards and try to hit someone running the other way as fast as they can.  I was a back-up on the kickoff squad and a starter on the punt squad.

*** Iron Man – playing both offense and defense.  With such a small squad we only had about six players who did not go both ways.  Though we (yes, I was one of those 6) were second stringers (usually to more than one position).

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April 10, 2008 Posted by | Football, Waynesboro | 2 Comments

The Stars Align

I follow 1.9375 teams in football.  Well, technically it is 4, but I weight them just the same and it comes out to 1.9375:

1) Washington Redskins (1.000) – Pre Season, Regular Season, Post Season, Home, Away it doesn’t matter.  I watch.

2) JMU Dukes (0.7500) – My College Alma Mater (Class of ’98). I try to go to all the home games but invariably miss one or two.  I will check the scores of away games or even listen over the internet on occasion.  I will even go to an away game if it isn’t too far (I will travel further to go to a match up against a 1-A school).  I am still kicking myself for missing the national championship game in 2004 even if I was literally in the process of moving in to a new house and in a new city in a different state over Christmas.

3) Waynesboro High School (0.1250) – My High School Alma Mater (Class of ’94). If I am in town and they are at home I might go to a game once or twice a season, maybe.

4) University of Virginia (0.0625) – I will see what the score is if I think about it.  With the exception of a bowl game, I haven’t been to a game in at least 9 years.  I will go to a bowl game only if it is close enough.

So, why am I bringing this up? Well, with the exception of JMU, all of these teams have been pretty bad in recent years.  Some of them will top .500 for a season here or there, but that seems to be pretty rare. 

My best friend and I follow the same teams.  We grew up in the same town and both attended WHS.  In fact, we met in the weight room almost 15 years ago before our football team’s playoff run my senior year (both of us were offensive linemen). 

A few years ago we noticed that all four teams never seemed to win on the same weekend.  With all of them being pretty bad that isn’t surprising, but it was amazingly awful nonetheless.  In fact, even if you remove UVa from the list, the remaining three didn’t win on the same weekend either. Unfortunately it was not all that unusual for all of them to lose on the same weekend.  But this past weekend was the exception (all of my teams were at home):

WHS 41 / Covington High 20#10

JMU 41 / #5 UNH (New Hamshire) 24

UVa 24 / Duke 13

Redskins 16 / Dolphins 13

Hopefully this isn’t the sign of a coming apocalypse but the birth of a new era where my favorite sports teams actually win games.

September 13, 2007 Posted by | Football, JMU, Redskins, Sports, UVa, Waynesboro | Leave a comment