The high school football season ended abruptly for me when Northwest Catholic fell to Cromwell in the Class S semifinals Saturday.
Hall and Conard each earned home-field advantage in the Class LL tournament, but were beaten by teams from the Southwest Conference and FCIAC respectively.
While Northwest was losing in Cheshire, this year’s flag-bearer for the CCC and greater Hartford area – Windsor – was losing to New Canaan in Class L after a last-second field goal. With that fateful kick, the CCC was precluded from any of the four championship games slated for this weekend at Rentschler Field.
I would be remiss if I didn’t relate just where the CCC rests in the football pecking order.
When the lights go out at Rentschler on Saturday night, the CIAC will have awarded 38 championship plaques since 2005. Two have gone to CCC teams. Berlin defeated Bethel for the Class M title in 2009 and Glastonbury won the ‘LL’ crown in 2008.
Since I administer the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance High School Football Poll, I am keenly aware that the 32-member CCC not only falls short of the Southern Connecticut Conference (New Haven area) and the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference but also the Southwest Conference. Certainly the Naugatuck Valley League (Waterbury) and the Eastern Connecticut Conference (New London-Norwich) can also claim superiority.
So how important is it that Hall, Conard, Northwest Catholic, Glastonbury, Windsor, Berlin and Rocky Hill all made the playoffs but couldn’t get out of the semifinals? If I was sanctimonious enough to place my own desires above the overall picture, shame on me. Some day I would like to get the chance to cover a title game at Rentschler, but how do my needs stack up against what high school football is really all about?
They don’t amount to a hill of beans.
There is nothing I would like better than to see the local kids standing on top of that hill after the final game. I have experienced the joy that comes from being the best of the best many times on the scholastic scene after 20 years on the beat. But the scholastic sports culture must refrain from placing the standards of the professional and major college ranks on our neighbors’ kids.
High school football, like all team sports played by teenagers on down, provides lessons in how unity, synergy and mutual respect can build something far more satisfying than the accomplishments of any one person. What can be more important for our children to recognize that working together with peers toward a common goal is one of the most significant lessons that high school can teach.
So to the boys of Hall, Conard and Northwest Catholic, the boys at Farmington, which went 9-1 but did not qualify for the playoffs, I raise my glass of well water and say congratulations and thank you.
Congratulations for outstanding achievement on the field of play under the guidance of some of the finest coaches I’ve had the pleasure to have known.
Thank you, because you all go out there for 10 or 11 weeks after spending months in training and you give it your all for your schools and towns, and you give me the pleasure of being able to occupy my time with your noble exploits.
I can watch you play and not miss the game at higher levels, where the human specter of greed hovers over the proceedings like the grim reaper.
I don’t concern myself with the greed-driven machinations of the Big East Conference, which is about to have members on the West Coast. Or Major League Baseball, where men in their 30s demand 10-year contracts at $20 million a year knowing that their self-indulgence will preclude more and more fans from ever being financially capable of attending a game.
Oh, the NBA hasn’t been playing games due to the lockout? Thanks to our hard-working local athletes, I truly didn’t notice. Even if I wasn’t covering games, I can think of no better way to support the community and all things that are good by pulling up a portion of grandstand and cheering on the kids.
Kids, don’t fret that you didn’t win a championship. I’d love to see it happen for you but be proud of what you accomplished, even if you stuck with it on a winless team. You will be a better person for it in the long run, and if our youngsters become better people, life in the USA can only improve.