Let me just say this: I’ve watched countless football games in my life. I’ve seen everything from the “Music City Miracle” to the “Ghost to the Post.” I’ve filled my head with more football trivia, statistics and historical facts than any young man at the age of 22 probably should.
But I’ll also say this: I’ve never seen an ending quite like the one I saw on Friday, Sept. 20.
If you’ve read my coverage of the game (yes, this is a blatant and shameless plug for myself), in this week’s sports section, you’ll probably find yourself in disbelief as to how the game ended. Louisa appeared to have won not once, but twice after King George failed to convert on two last second field goal attempts. Even after the penalties against Louisa gave King George a third chance at the game-winning kick, they still had a crack at coming away with a win, only to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” as Barry Switzer would say.
One second the Lions were blocking a game-winning field goal attempt and thinking they had won, and the next second they were walking off of the field wondering what they did wrong.
It was a tough break. Blame it on the referees, a loss of composure, bad luck, take your pick. The fact of the matter is it happened, and Louisa players weren’t happy.
There were a few tossed helmets and a lot of tears. Players were stung, coaches were miffed and parents were upset.
A perfect storm. It could have gotten ugly. It almost did.
That was until Louisa head football coach Jon Meeks grabbed his players, gathered them in a huddle at midfield, and shook hands with King George players and coaches.
It was a move that showed Meeks’ character, and if his team picks up on that type of behavior, that game could be the best thing that happens to them all year.
We’ve all heard the phrases. They say something to the extent of “It’s not about the challenges you face, but how you react to them.”
It’s true. In the grand scheme of life, football, as a game, really isn’t that important. Records will be broken, plays will be forgotten and players will come and go.
It’s the lessons that football teaches you that truly matter.
“Football is like life,” former Green Bay head coach and NFL legend Vince Lombardi once said. “It requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”
Think of those characteristics. Those all are qualities that Louisa players are having the chance to learn through the sport of football.
Whether they take advantage of that opportunity is up to them. But as of right now, they stand at the perfect crossroads.
The game against King George parallels life. All of these players are going to learn within the next five years or so that there is indeed life after football. It will be a life that throws them curve balls, it’ll be unfair, and whether they want to admit it or not, they’ll shed their fair share of tears too.
Deal with it. Move on. Win.
Meeks has made it clear in interviews this week that he’s done looking back. As I sat in his office on Tuesday, he watched the tape of the final few plays a few more times at his rickety desk in his office, aired his grievances one last time, and then turned it off, never to watch it again.
“That game is over,” Meeks said. “We’re focused on Charlottesvillle now.”
And that’s what it takes. Ignoring the bumps in the road so you can focus on the drive ahead. When Louisa has a bad break in the first quarter of their game against Charlottesville — and bad breaks are inevitable in football — they’ll hit that familiar intersection once again.
They can either think, “Here we go again,” or, “That’s nothing, let’s go back to work.”
If they’re anything like their coach, they’ll be fine.
So, the task is set: forget Friday night. While it unforunately went down in the books as an “L”, that “L” won’t tell the whole story of what that game meant for the team if they decide to use the fiasco as fuel.
Recovery starts with a much-needed victory against Charlottesville this Friday.
The Lions can do it. They can go crazy when it happens. They’ll deserve it.
Just make sure everyone has heard that final whistle this time.
By Andrew Woolfolk