Home Team / No practice today
Published 12:36 pm, Thursday, December 2, 2010
"You guys screwed up my whole plan for the weekend," my middle son Greg said, only half-kidding. His comment was directed at my youngest son, and by "you guys," he meant the Staples Wreckers football team, which had just lost a 7-6 heartbreaker to Glastonbury in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Greg already had cleared his calendar to be on hand for tomorrow's semifinal, which was "supposed" to be pitting Staples against Xavier. To be perfectly honest, my whole family had penciled in that date for the showdown, taking it for granted that Staples would be involved. And I had even gone a step further. I had stayed away from any commitments for the following weekend, anticipating a Staples appearance in the Class LL state championship game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Maybe we've all gotten a little bit spoiled.
I am, of course, a card-carrying member of Wreckers Nation. All three of my sons have played Staples football, dating back to the 1995 season. In that 16-year stretch, the Wreckers have captured three FCIAC championships, as well as three state championships. They've won 140 games, while losing only 36. They've qualified for the state tournament nine times in the last 10 years.
Rooting for the Wreckers is kind of like rooting for the Yankees (not that I know exactly how that would feel): You assume good results. You assume championships. Anything less somehow feels like "falling short."
On Tuesday night, the boys rode the bus back to Westport from Glastonbury. After that, they met with the coaches in the locker room. They didn't get home until the wee hours. My son, still in eye-black, was doing his best to deal with the disappointment. But the defeat stung -- as did Staples' only other two losses of the last two years.
Last year, Staples bowed to Cheshire 28-21 in the state finals in West Haven in overtime, stalling just a few feet short of victory. Three weeks ago, needing a win or a tie against Trumbull to advance to the FCIAC championship game, the team tried a two-point conversion that would have knotted the contest with no time left in regulation. The conversion was unsuccessful, and Staples failed to reach the title game.
And on Tuesday night in Glastonbury, the Wreckers once again tried, with just a minute left on the clock, for a huge two-point conversion that would have finished off the Tomahawks and advanced Staples to the semis. The attempt was stopped inside the one-yard line.
In all three instances, Staples fought furiously from behind in the closing seconds of a ridiculously close and hard-fought game. In all three instances, the Wreckers wound up falling short -- by a grand total of about three yards.
Wednesday afternoon, the boys had no practice, and no lifting for the first time since I don't even remember when. My son, who's a senior, went in to clean out his locker. He came home with a huge gym bag crammed full of UnderArmour, pads, socks, shorts, cleats, wristbands, tape, ankle supports, a knee brace and a shoulder harness. I asked him what he planned to do the rest of the afternoon. He said he didn't know. He appeared a little aimless. My guess is that's the way it's going to be for a while.
If you follow Staples football, you know it hasn't been the easiest year. You already know that the Wreckers lost their starting senior tailback to an ACL tear in the spring game in June. A month ago, they lost their starting senior quarterback, also to a knee injury. I serve at the team's pasta dinners Thursdays after practice because I like the chance once a week to see the boys without their helmets. On a recent Thursday, five straight players filed by for pasta wearing an ice pack on one body part or another -- shoulder, wrist, knee, elbow, back. For several weeks now, the chow line has had the look of a M*A*S*H unit. And through all that, the Wreckers soldiered on, and qualified for the CIAC playoffs.
After the Glastonbury loss on Tuesday, head coach Marce Petroccio was quoted as saying, "Football is a game of life, and that's life. You don't always win."
Nope, not even if you're the Yankees. And not even if you're the Staples Wreckers. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you fall a little short. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't stand tall.
The Staples Wreckers should be standing tall.
Westporter Hank Herman shares his Home Team column every other Friday in the Westport News.