Inside the Swarm – Clinton

 

It is 3:20 and Lamont Edney sits at the piano, doing his very best imitation of Ray Charles playing the piano as the Jackets wait for coach Lipsey to arrive.

“Get your head right,” says Lipsey, “and be ready to play at 7:30 . Be mentally prepared.”

At this point, Reverend Robert Emory, team chaplain, introduced Reverend Kevin Dalton, pastor of Buffalo Methodist Church .

“Being here with you brings back memories,” began Dalton . “Thirty years ago I was where you are now. I know that you are focusing on the game tonight and might not hear everything that I’m saying.

“You can probably tell from my (northern) accent that I am not from around here. I played ice hockey for 17 years. My dad was my coach one year and never chose me to play because he didn’t want to be accused of playing me just because I was his son.

“When I did play, I was as a sub and I had just one thing to do one – take you out of the game. So one game I was put into the game to take out another guy and I went after him.

“But instead, he laid me out on the ice. I was laying there, flat on my back, and my dad comes out of the stands and says to me, ‘Son, they’ll clap if you get up.’

“I’ve been thinking about what my dad said. Tonight or some other time, someone is going to lay you out. Remember, there is another play after that one IF you get up.

“If you drop a pass, you’ll get another chance and, if you catch it, they will clap. In everyday life, people will do you wrong. You can turn that around and, if you get up, they will clap.

“Heaven rejoices if one of you repents of your sins and accepts Christ as Lord and Savior. I got knocked down. But I got up. If you do your job on the field and in life, people will clap if you get up.

“If you mess up in life and turn your life over to God, all those in heaven will clap when you get up.

The offense. Usually, it’s a bit noisy in the classroom or weight room while the players await their coaches. Not tonight. No noise. No lights. You could hear a pin drop.

“For the past three weeks, we’ve had pep talks,” began offensive coordinator Dave Maness. “This game is as close to a Region Championship game as we will play. We don’t need to get you up for this game. Whoever wins this will have a leg up. They will do what they always do. No rabbits out of the hat. They won’t be hard to find. But they execute very well. On paper, we are better than they are but they will die before they loose.

“They haven’t changed their offense much sine 1972. Maybe a wrinkle or two but that’s it. We have to lay pads on them. We can’t afford penalties. It will be a close game. We want to get them in a hole early. And we have to run the ball. They’ll fight longer because they are at home. This won’t be easy. This is the first time that I feel like we have all our folks together.”

Coach Bryan Robinson began by saying the O-line had a good game last week. “Don’t be satisfied over last week. Be more physical than Clinton thinks you could ever be. Put your minds to it. Think about dominating the line of scrimmage.”

“I didn’t think we were ready last Saturday,” began Coach Dennis Cooper. “We have to hit on all eight cylinders tonight. It is all about the team. Clinton doesn’t care how good you look. Be the most physical team they have seen all season. If you do, you’ll come home with a win.”

In the gym. “They aren’t very disciplined on special teams,” began Lipsey. “Put some points on the board. They have something we want – the Region Championship. No half stepping. You’re going on a mission. Play four quarters. Leave everything you have on the field because that’s what it’s gonna take. Make it happen.”

Before the kickoff.  “It’s Friday night. The lights are on. It’s game time,” said Lipsey. “Are you ready? Play hard. Get low. Play fast. Go wide open and put it all together. They have what you want. Go get it. Take it.”

At the half.  With the Jackets leading by seven, several Jackets were echoing Sam Hammond’s thoughts, “Guys, it’s zero-zero.”  Just before the start of the second half, Lipsey reminded the team, “Twenty-four more minutes. Seniors, take care of it.”

After.  “I’m proud of you,” began coach Lipsey to a disheartened team. “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you. We will see them again. You played hard. You need to use this loss to motivate you. This must motivate you. This is not something we can’t handle. I am proud of each one of you. You are starting to play the best football of the year. You are starting to roll. Keep your heads up. Keep your heads up. Keep your heads up.”

Quick hitters. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, to include Clinton ’s, that the Jackets were ready to play. They left nothing on the sidelines or the bus… greeting the Jackets along the road to Clinton were three signs: “A Long Road…To Defeat…CHS”…

as part of the pre-game festivities, the Clinton mascot (Red Devil) appeared on an elevated platform behind the end zone to a cloud of carbon dioxide “smoke” just behind a sign for Davidson Street Baptist Church…Alvin Young made a great hit on a kickoff in the first quarter… prior to leaving for Clinton, coaches were telling coach Maness to put into his playbook the wild scramble TD play that Mike Mebane pulled during the JV game…and that’s exactly what happened on the second TD… it was a night of what ifs: What if we make the extra point?; What if their end isn’t wide open on the two point play?; What if we don’t fumble the ball?; What if we don’t have a mindless Unsportsmanship Conduct penalty on their second scoring series?; What if we don’t have an interception?; What if we don’t have a penalty on a TD?; What if, what if, and what if we scored more points than Clinton?... according to the offensive coaches, Deon Thompson “had a good game,’ Dustin Austin started his first game “…and played well,” while quarterback Keiston Stevens is “growing up with more playing time”…the mindset of the team before, during, and after the game was that this was a play-off game… defensive end Tevin Thompson caught the coaches eyes with his play during the fourth quarter: “He works hard and is getting quicker, stronger and playing with a better pad level.” …the challenge facing the team is to remember the words of Reverend Dalton: “If you get up, they will clap.”

The journey continues. Home. Hall of Fame. 7:30. Eastside. Get ready to clap.

 

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