EDITORIAL: This isn't the end.
When four Chugiak senior football players and their parents gathered outside a small meeting room at the Anchorage Hilton, they did so in hopes of salvaging a lost season and lost dreams. A few hours later, in a different part of town, they learned their dreams had died.
But did they?
Senior captain Kody Trombley, who spoke on behalf of the team while the Mustangs were on the field as the offensive speaking captain, again did his best to plead the team’s case in front of the Alaska School Activities Association executive board. He spoke of the hard work he and his teammates put in while trying to persuade the ASAA board to vacate three forfeits handed down by the ASAA executive director because the Mustangs used an ineligible player.
Trombley’s words were eloquent, and his sentiment genuine. As he spoke, fellow captains Justin Schneider, Wayde Snell and Travis Craig stood by him, showing their solidarity with the big tackle.
When the board delivered the news that the forfeits would be upheld, the three boys were stoic in the face of a decision they did not agree with.
Later, when the decision was affirmed by another call that didn’t go the team’s way — this time by Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau — the captains again kept their jaws locked tight, graciously accepting the superintendent’s decision and even sympathizing with her difficult choice.
The decisions likely ended the football careers of all four. All four of the players were among Chugiak’s leaders this season, but it’s rare for players from Alaska to make the leap to the college ranks.
Trombley said he might try to play college ball, but that’s not his future. Instead, the hulking lineman has said he wants to study music when he gets to college.
Although their season didn’t end in controversy, the senior football players at Eagle River also ended their season last week. The Wolves took a devastating 42-0 loss to South Anchorage in their final game.
Afterwards, senior Malcolm Bell exchanged tearful hugs with teammates, family and friends. Bell said he might try to give college football a shot, but he hasn’t gotten any scholarship offers.
Bell probably isn’t going to become the next Adrian Peterson. But he’s okay with that.
He said he wants to become a doctor.
Craig Lowe, the Chugiak kicker who was ruled ineligible, didn’t join the team to become a professional placekicker. He joined because he desperately wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. He worked hard, and that work paid off when he won the job.
Those lessons will serve Lowe well when he realizes his dream of becoming a police officer. He said he just likes helping people.
High school football can be an amazing time in a young person’s life. The camaraderie built on the gridiron helps players form lifelong bonds with teammates that won’t ever be broken. 20 years from now, long after they’ve got kids of their own, the players from this year’s teams will look at each other and be able to grin at the knowledge that they once sweated, bled and cried together on the field of play.
The lessons learned through football — that hard work and discipline pay off, to play fair and put a group over individual needs — are lessons that the players won’t soon forget.
Long after they’ve forgotten what their record was this season, or how many touchdowns someone scored, or even exactly how the season ended, it’s those lessons that will stick with this year’s teams.
Before last week’s dramatic hearing, someone approached me to take issue with an editorial I wrote last week saying that football is just a game. He said that it’s not just a game, that it’s bigger than that.
In a way, he might have been right. Football is more than a game. It’s something that can teach us lessons about life, and it’s something that can bring us closer to one another. It’s a way to learn about life and a way to learn about people and a way to learn to live with adversity.
The players on these teams have their entire futures in front of them. These futures likely include careers in medicine and music, public safety and politics.
None of them are likely to become professional football players.
And that’s just fine.