Confession – I’m a sucker for high school football. My son Vic and I caught the first win of the season for the 2A Burns Broncs in that bucolic little southeastern town out on the edge of America’s amber waves of grain.
Another son, Isaac (in Clair McFarland’s parlance, my second-born) is on the Burns coaching staff, and he speaks so very highly about those young Broncs, even though their record was 0 for 5 when Vic and I walked into the stadium.
Ike was an All-State quarterback for Cheyenne Central back when he had a full head of hair, and went on to a great career quarterbacking the University of Sioux Falls Cougars under the legendary Bob Young. Kalen DeBoer, now head coach for the Washington Huskies, was one of Ike’s coaches.
As an aside, when I played football for the Mighty Rawlins Outlaws, across the line-off-scrimmage from me when we played Cheyenne Central was a bony lineman named Chris LeDoux whom, if memory serves, only sacked my quarterback three or four times while I was trying to block him.
LeDoux was too skinny to play college ball, so he went on to other things….riding roughstock, singing songs, stuff like that.
Yeah, the Burns Broncs were small. Ike had warned me not to expect too much from the game. But he also said that the kids had a great attitude and were still loving football and having fun regardless of a winless season so far.
Ike also told me that there was something refreshingly different about the Burns players. Having coached a few years at a 5A school himself, he had experience with “big” school athletes who were starting to mimic the swagger and temperament of college and pro players.
He said that his Burns players, while small, were all “yessir” and “nossir”, with no backsass when told what to do. They have no problem showing up for pre-season practice at the crack of dawn, because they’ve already been up for a couple hours doing chores on the family farm or ranch.
And they invariably exhibit good sportsmanship. They always help the opposing running back to his feet after a tackle. It may take three Broncs to tackle him and three of ‘em to help him back up, but they have that kind of respect for the game.
So, back to the game.
The parking lot was full, and the sunset was one of those pink mother-of-pearl cotton candy and orange sherbet confections that only Wyoming can whip up. The air had a sharpness and sweetness that only air coming off mountains a thousand miles from any ocean can offer.
The stands were full of dads and granddads of the current Broncs. They sported receding hairlines and expanding waistlines common to all us ex-jocks. And in their noggins, indelible memories of athletic glory on nights like this between the white lines
Salt-of-the-earth folks from those farms and ranches out there under the black velvet night in the Big Empty, all “yessir” and “yes’m”, just like their offspring.
Well-behaved little kids ran around with hotdogs in their hands, playing tag around the snack shack, secure in their surroundings.
All in all, a reassuring tableau if you are worried about where America is headed.
Glenrock, the visitors, scored the first two touchdowns and the Bronc’s defense looked leaky as a rusty bucket. Then our passing game caught fire and Burns scored the next two touchdowns. Back and forth it went, and the whistle blew with the score tied 14-14 after an emotional teeter-totter of a contest.
Burns won it in overtime, and an exuberant pandemonium ensued on the field and in the stands. After the post-game midfield handshake, coaches and players from both teams took time to hug, visit and pat each other on the helmet. Some toddlers in the stands were too fast asleep in Mom or Dad’s lap to notice.
Vic and I walked back to his rig thinking, “Screw the BCS. Screw the NFL. For fine football, give me a 2A game in Wyoming every day of the week, and twice on Friday.”
Rod Miller can be reached at: email@example.com