I’m a high school football obsessed fan in a high school obsessed state. I spend just about every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday on the sidelines or in the press box at a high school football stadium. I walk up and down the sidelines trying to capture THAT picture, taking notes on scoring plays, and tweeting out updates for my twitter followers or I sit in the press box making play-by-play notes to calculate player stats. I pay a lot of attention to what is going on the field of play. I’ve covered 236 games in the last three years.
I think that makes what I saw happen on Friday night that much more special.
First let me set the scene. Each year in the state of Texas, several six-man schools host kickoff classics – several games are played at the host school. I’ve attended the Allen Academy Six-Man Kickoff Classic the past two years. As the host school, the Allen Academy Rams played in the first game of the Classic on Thursday. Several of the Rams players would attend the games on Friday and Saturday to observe some teams they will or may play later in the year.
As I arrived at Allen Academy on Friday, I chatted with a couple of the Allen Academy assistant coaches and several of the players from the team. A bunch of sports-oriented guys chatting about topics such as the Katy vs. North Shore game from the night before, the future of Texas A&M and University Texas football, and other football topics.
The first game at Allen Academy on Friday night was Houston Grace Christian Eagles vs. Brazos Valley Christian Homeschool Educators Association (BVCHEA) Mustangs. As the teams were warming up, I took to the sidelines and begin taking pictures of both teams. When the game started, I alternated between taking pictures and taking notes. At some point in the 1st quarter I realized that the visitor’s stands for Houston Grace Christian were empty.
Now let me say here that I don’t know the circumstances that lead to there being no fans in the stands. This is six-man football and the schools that play six-man football are small schools, generally under 100 students at each school. It is a trip of over two hours between the two schools and that trip ether goes through the heart of Houston or around it during high traffic hours. But regardless of the reasons, there were no fans in the visitor’s stands.
BVCHEA is a local homeschool association located in Bryan and had a sizeable crowd at the game.
BVCHEA scored touchdowns on there first two possessions and recorded a safety on Grace Christian’s second possession. And BVCHEA had held Grace Christian to negative offensive yardage.
Okay. Enough scene setting.
At this point I noticed several Allen Academy Ram football players making their way around the north end of the stadium and heading toward the visitor’s stands.
When I spoke with the a few of Allen Academy players the next day, one of them said, “We’ve never been in the visitor’s stands. We just wanted to see what it was like.”
But the players did much more than enjoy the view form the stands. They were loud and raucous as they cheered for the Grace Christian players. There were of course cheers of “Offense” and “Defense”. After a penalty there was one of my least favorite chants, “You can’t do that.” And there were spontaneous exhortations like “great hit number 17.” And all were loud and easily heard throughout the stadium.
It might be coincidence but once the Rams’ players arrived in the visitor’s stands, the Eagles had their best defensive stand, forcing a Mustang fumble, and their best offensive series driving for 10 plays even though they didn’t score.
The Rams’ players were really into cheering for the Eagles. In the second quarter there was a lightning delay of over an hour and Ram’s players returned to visitor’s stands. Brendan Webb, one of the Grace Academy Coaches posted on Twitter after the game “BIG shoutout to the @AllenAcademyFB guys!! Used a lightning delay to come up with a few chants for us. I know they’re Rams, but tonight they were Eagles.”
If this were Hollywood, the Eagles would have rallied for the win. But in the real world the Mustangs went on to a 48-0 victory. That doesn’t diminish the impact of the actions of these young men.
In the world of youth sports, we hear talk of “sportsmanship” and talk of teaching values and citizenship through sports. On Friday night at Bryan’s Allen Academy this was on full display.
After the game on Twitter, the Head of School at Allen Academy, Dr. Mathew J. Rush posted “So proud of these boys… and it’s only week 1.”
There’s sixteen weeks left to this high school football season for me. As I roam the sidelines and press boxes, as I hear fans boo the refs, as I hear criticism of coaches, I’ll try to remember that sometimes it’s about more than what happens between the white lines.