By Porter Reynolds.
It could be said, without a doubt, that the Heritage Academy varsity football team has the biggest heart. Heritage began its football program over a decade ago and since then has established a tradition of hard work, discipline and winning. When a team has lacked in talent it has made up for it in competitive determination to maintain our legacy of greatness.
The start of this year’s football season seemed bleak to many and a rumor started to spread that the legacy of the most successful sport on campus was going to end. Eighty percent of this year’s varsity team consisted of JV football players who had been slaughtered in every game they had played two years ago. To make matters worse, the already nervous players and fans found out three weeks before the first game that their starting quarterback was transferring schools and a week later the second string quarterback broke his hand.
Rudy Ruettiger said, “Keep moving forward, don’t listen to the naysayers, persevere, be persistent.” In the face of these huge obstacles, the team chose to keep moving forward and persevere. They regrouped and worked even harder all the way up until game day.
The day of the first game their third string quarterback had a severe asthma attack and was unable to play. So the Heroes were down to their fourth string quarterback who had never started in a varsity game in his life. (For those that don’t know much about football, the quarterback is an essential player on the team because they lead the offense in scoring points.) Despite all of these setbacks, the players remained motivated to play and beat the team they had lost to during their JV years.
The game started off strong with the Heroes recovering their own kickoff and scoring on their first play. Although they held the lead for a majority of the first half they eventually lost due to their own mental errors and physical fatigue. The second game was much like the first in that the Heroes came out strong, holding a lead for most of the first half, then eventually lost in the second half due to penalties and mental mistakes. Many wondered if this was how the rest of the season would pan out. With each loss, the Heroes would work harder and longer at practices honing their strengths and dominating their weaknesses.
“Losing isn’t always the end, sometimes it becomes the beginning,”said Joseph Duffy, MMA champion. The third game of the season was the turning point for the Heroes and the beginning of a winning streak. Finally finding their rhythm as a team, the Heroes ended up beating their third opponent 70 to 0.This victory was the start of a 5 game winning streak. These victories were enough to push Heritage into the playoffs as third best in their division in the state.
The first playoff game the Heroes won 50 – 20 securing a spot in the semifinals. The semifinals game was a rematch against the first team they had lost to. The game was grueling and intense with both teams fighting as hard as they could. Going into the second half the Heroes were down 6 – 8. With one more touchdown in the second half of the game, Heritage was a able to pull off the win 14 – 8 and would move on to the state championship game.
Going into the state championship game about half of the starters on varsity were injured or hurt in one way or another from previous games. The mood was positive at halftime. The Heroes were only short by a touchdown and the players and fans were confident that they could come back from the deficit. The second half did not go as they would have liked with their opponents scoring an additional twenty points and some of the Hero’s key players getting injured. In the last seconds of the game the Heroes were able to score, but it wasn’t enough and Heritage Academy lost with the final score 26 – 6.
Although the Heroes lost the state championship game they still consider the season a win for the team. As one football player put it, “We may have lost the game tonight, but we won the season because we created a brotherhood and friendships that will last a lifetime.” Varsity football was able to uphold the legacy of being “Hero Strong” and the bonds made this season will last longer than trophies. At the beginning of the season they were individual players, unsure how the season would turnout. Now they’re a unified team, with one heart, and all eyes focused on future successful seasons of Heritage Academy football.