Tuesday, December 3, 2013

After the 8A championship...

...my brother in Minnesota asked me if Naperville Central had been undefeated going into the game against Loyola. "No," I responded. "They lost to Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard North and Wheaton North. I had them written off."

"How can that be?" he asked. "What turned them around? Sounds like material for a good post."

And he's right; it would be good material for a post. So I asked one of the Naperville Central players' moms about it and here is her answer (lightly edited):

I'm not your typical football mother. We pretty much eat and sleep football in our house. We come from a football-minded family and -- living with a former professional player and now current head coach -- you see all the ups and downs of many seasons. You see the highs and the lows and you learn to deal with adversity. 
While many people were writing off Central and calling their season all but done the team never felt that way -- the coaches wouldn’t allow it. Many talked about this great turnaround, but I don’t think anyone closely associated with the team would call it that! The team started off the year as anticipated with five great wins, avenging two Naperville losses last year to Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley. 
Then came the three game “slide.” 
During the three-game losing streak the boys never doubted they were a good team. They lost to three very strong teams. While they were upset with the losses and wished they would have walked away with a win in one of those close games, their drive and determination never wavered. They still believed they were a good team and used the losses as a springboard to strengthen their bond, work a little harder and come together as a team. They believed! 
The playoff run was a fairy tale -- a Cinderella story in many peoples' minds -- but the team looked at the state championship as reaching their main goal set at the beginning of the year. They wanted redemption from 2012's non-post season so they took on early mornings in the weight room starting in late October, 2012, extra hours on the field running routes and building more team camaraderie, and extra 7 on 7 work they put in over the summer, all hoping for a trip to DeKalb at the end of November. They didn’t mind being the underdog for the majority of the playoffs. They would read the articles on how they “didn’t have a chance against this high-octane offense” or “offense will need to play flawless to get past this great defense.” They read it all and just took it in stride. They banded together, stayed focused on their goal, and kept their normal routines. (Actually, it's funny how superstitious athletes can be about the same routine. For instance, I fed the defense breakfast at my house before the Saturday playoff games and took pictures each week and the boys always sat in the exact same spot.)
Well, they reached that goal and won the biggest game of their lives. These “undersized but athletic” boys just had no quit; they kept battling through each and every playoff game. As one dad put it, “these boys kept getting punched in the mouth but kept fighting and coming back for more.” And I will also take a quote from one of my son’s Instagram pages, “This is more than a football team… brotherhood.” This was a team that had multiple heros; different players stepped up in games throughout the year. There were no prima donnas, no elitist attitude, just the attitude that they all needed to play well, play hard, never quit and most importantly play for each other! 
They will remember this season forever: the memories, the wins and losses, the brotherhood and so many life lessons. If these boys go through life with the determination, drive and passion they had during this season, they will all be successful in life. As a parent, what more can you ask for?  I could not be more proud of these boys and the coaches who led them to this state championship and more importantly helped them grow as young men!  

Redhawks: 2013 8A State Champs!!

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