Inside the Swarm – Gaffney

 

By: Paul Davis

“Good job on the pep rally,” began Coach David Lipsey. “Focus on playing. Get it right. Get it right. Match their intensity. Match their intensity. We are not going for a visit. Take over. We are going to win. Get it right. Four quarters. Four quarters.”

At that point, team chaplain Robert Emory introduced the guest speaker, the Reverend Robert Alexander, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Union, and a “real athlete in his own right as a runner. “We had a last minute cancellation and he gladly agreed to stand in and bring the devotion,” explained Emory.

“Thanks for the chance to speak to you,” began Alexander. After opening the gathering with prayer, Alexander read from Hebrews 12: 1-3.

“This scripture provides guidance for us as athletes and for us in life. You may think I am too young to be a preacher but I’m not.

“I ran my first marathon when I was thirty. A marathon is 26.2 miles. I trained  with a friend of mine and was really psyched up for the run. It was in November. I had carb loaded on Friday night before the run. I had my Power Gels. I was ready to go.

“People had told me that at some point I would ‘hit the wall’ where I would run out of gas. No energy. A mental block. Somewhere around mile 17 or 18 I hit it.

“Everything was gone. Nothing was left to get to the finish line. In Psalms I remembered what David wrote: “…With you (God) I can leap over the wall….” I thought about what David said, my preparation, and that with God’s help, I could do it.

“The next miles, some folks had set up some large speakers along the route and were playing the theme from Rocky. I got pumped. I knew I could do it. I knew I could go over that wall.

“There will be times when you will encounter walls, when you feel you have nothing left. With God, you CAN do it. Focus on God. He has shown it can be done.

“In Hebrews, it talked about a ‘great crowd of witnesses’ encouraging us, saying ‘You can make it.’ God promise is with you today. Remember, you’re not alone. You can make it if you keep your focus on God.”

The offense.  Offensive coordinator Dave Maness began the meeting by reminding the team of their turnovers last week. “There are a couple of very important things you need to do tonight. First, come out and hit hard early. The first call will be Pro right, Liz, 22 belly. Zone block. We need to establish something early.

“Second, I don’t’ want any delay of game tonight. We need to step up. We went backwards last week. Be smart with the football. We are getting a bit thin at quarterback. We have to protect the quarterback. Number 72 is not better than Josh Lowery.

“Don’t take any, any plays off. What are you willing to give up for joy ten o’clock tonight? Get off the ball. College scouts watch films. They see what you do on every play. Tonight, turn it around. Give that cloud of witnesses that Reverend Alexander talked about a chance to cheer. Show what you are made of. Some of you will be playing both ways. There should be about 50-60 plays. That’s 100 plays at 4-6 seconds each. That’s about of ten minutes of actual playing. Rest when you are walking around. Play wide open. Six seconds a play. Play hard, play smart.”

In the Gym. “Make sure you get to the huddle quickly,” began Lipsey. “Know your assignment. Compete. Compete. Compete. Two things: First, don’t be a player looking for an ice bag to get on the sideline. Be a man. Don’t look for a way out. You will play hurt if you play football but you won’t play injured. We will do everything needed to care for you if you are injured. Compete. Compete. Second, focus. Know the situation on offense and defense. You never know when the critical play of the game will be. Go hard every play.

“ Second, we have GOT to run the football. Take care of those big guys. Keep the offense on the field. Play as a team and it starts up front. Defense, shut them down. Get nasty and I don’t mean dirty. Play hard. Don’t bring anything back to the bus. Leave it on the field. Seniors, one third of your season is over tonight.” And with that the team ended with the Lord’s Prayer.

Before the game.  “Compete, compete, compete,” began Coach Lipsey. “When we look at the films Saturday and Sunday, what will we see? Did you lay it out? Did you compete? Go hard every single play. Get the max out of every play. Offense, get the ball and drive. On the sidelines, you never know when your number will be called. App State got a win when no one in the country felt they had a chance. Same for you. Shock everyone. Go until it is over. Beat them on the little things. Let them make the mistakes. Get all over them. You’ve had a good week of practice now it is time to get paid.”

Coach Jon Cudd challenged them to go harder than the man in front of them.

At the half. “They can not move the ball on you,” began Lipsey. “They can’t block the offensive line. Move them out. Finish the plays. Get in the end zone. You are a four quarter team.”

It’s over. “How are we going to handle this loss?” asked Lipsey. “We lost the game. You competed. You competed. There was a world of difference between our game last week and this week. Next week everyone one in the region starts 0-0. We play in our house. We win the region, we should be home during the playoffs. Monday, we start the journey to the region championships. You got better this week. Some of you changed positions. No one is going to help us. We have to take care of ourselves. I am very, very proud of your effort. We had them on the ropes and they knew it.”

Quick hitters.  Prior to the offense’s meeting quarterback Keiston Stevens put off eating a dill pickle (part of a cramp prevention regimen) for several minutes until finally being able to close his eyes and devour the sour veggie…the pre-game meal tradition is that the players eat by class with seniors first. One of the shortest players on the team, Chris Jeter, found himself bypassed by the hungry players and moved himself to the head of line reminding them that, “I may be short but I’m a junior.”…Union had no penalties in the first half… after the game Gaffney linebacker J.B. Shippy went out of his way to come to the bench area to shake the hands of one of the Union players… as the team waited to leave Gaffney, Coach Maness remarked, “I feel a lot better going into region play this year than I did last.”… football is truly a team effort which includes those who are not football players. Union trainer Doc Lipsey has six student trainers who perform a multitude of duties from helping with injuries to taping players. They are led by Porsha Gilliam, a four-year veteran trainer and softball player who wants to be a physical therapist. She is assisted by junior Jamie Smith (2 yrs), junior track athlete Chirie Burt (3 yrs), freshman Mesha Duckett, softball player Chelsey Puckett (3 yrs) and junior softball player Megan Gregory (2 yrs)…after just three games, Jackets have three QBs down with injuries: Bo Whitney 6-8 weeks; Nick Monroe (punter) 6 weeks; and Antoine Coventon who is out for the season with a broken ankle…sophomore Neal Washington is making a name for himself on the JV, scout, and special teams. “(He is) a leader on the JVs, a great student, hard worker in the weight room, has definite college potential and  should be a two-year future starter,” said Coach Brannon.

The journey continues. Wade Hampton. Home. Be here.

 

 

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