When you set the bar so high for your high school athletics program, a slip can feel like a fall from a very tall building.
Take the Columbus North High School football program, for example. The team has lost three of its first four games this season.
I’m sure the coaches and players have fallen into somewhat of a “searching-for-answers” trance for the time being.
This is a program that has had just one losing season since 2001, and that was 4-6 in 2008. Now when you consider the competition the Bull Dogs face on a week-to-week basis, against some of the state’s top football factories, you realize what they have accomplished.
Unfortunately, the margin for error with such a schedule is paper thin. I could easily pick out two plays in North’s losses to Columbus East and Franklin Central that would have swung the outcome in North’s favor.
And as head coaches have stated for years, “If ifs and buts were nuts, we’d all have a wonderful Christmas.”
The fact is that numbers don’t often tell the story, but that’s the bottom line in the sports world. A 1-3 record indicates that North isn’t a very good football team. That is far from the truth.
The Bull Dogs have slugged it out until the end with some really good teams. Sure, they have come up short. But there should be no lack of confidence in North land. Folks around town know that these guys play an exceptional brand of football. Hopefully, they understand that about themselves.
Coach Bless was telling his players that the leadership has to rise to the top to navigate through these tough times that could get even tougher. North travels Friday to Lawrence Central, which is 4-0 this season and has outscored its opponents 184-32. Lawrence Central has won the past four games of its series against Columbus North.
Next up for the Bull Dogs is Pike, which lost to North this past season but won the previous five games in the series.
The players are beaten and battered right now, and Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield are next up.
But the beauty of this sport is that players sometimes can accomplish the impossible when they pull together. And don’t be surprised if North comes through this tough spell and then builds momentum going into the playoffs. The tradition of winning that has been established by Bless is not an accident.
Then there is the beauty of being part of team. I remember back in the old, old days, when my teammates and I finished our final high school football game and then attended a party that went late into the night. I’m sure we were very loud and goofy until the wee hours. Our party was next door to the president of the board of education’s home. Angered by the noise, he called up our football coach at 1 a.m.
Since I knew the president of the board of education’s daughter, I got a replay of the phone call the next day.
“Coach, your players are next door and they are having a big party, and they’re still making a lot of noise.”
“Well, are they all there together?”
“Yes, they are all there.”
“All of them?”
From what I have seen of the North coaches and players, no matter what happens, you can tell they will stay together. And no number can explain what that means.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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