My husband loves the TV show Friday Night Lights. He used to live in Texas so he knows that Texans are truly serious about their football even at the high school level.
We live in a rural area in NW Georgia that takes it’s football seriously too! We go to a very large church in this small community and on Sunday mornings we usually get an update on the latest local high school football news because our Pastor also announces the games! The small towns all around us love their sports! My husband and I have lived here for about 16 years and we’ve been to high school baseball, fast pitch softball, basketball games and recreation league softball to support friends and family but it had never occurred to us to go to a high school football game because we really didn’t know anyone who was playing.
Early Friday morning my husband said, “why don’t we go to the Adairsville game tonight. I think it would be fun to go listen to Jim call the game.” We usually go out to eat on Fridays and I was lukewarm on the idea but said, “sure, if you’re sure that’s what you want to do,” while kind of hoping he might change his mind but I didn’t say anything. If he really wanted to go, I could handle it! I like football but I’m kind of particular about what I watch…Penn State, Dallas and the Steelers or any important games that might change their place in ranking…but high school…hmmm! When I watch sports, I like for it to be something that I can get into from a “we gotta win” kind of thing. My husband will tell you that I get really nervous in a close game when my team is up or down. I pace, I speak in my “outside” voice at the players/drivers, the manager/coach/pit crew, the umpire/referee. So, when I thought about going to a H.S. football game where I didn’t really know the players, I didn’t figure it would be all that exciting for me.
We arrived early and perched ourselves on the 50 yard line. Not too many people were there yet and I didn’t see anyone we knew. Our pastor normally calls the games but we didn’t see him anywhere around. Turns out he was out of town. We go to a very large church in this very small town, so there were a lot of familiar faces but no one that we’re really close to seemed to be there. I started looking around and just taking in all of the activity around me. It brought back lots of memories of my own high school football games. I was a cheerleader and football season was always the best time of the year for me. Cold nights in short skirts (not by today’s standards of course), pom poms, greasy concession stand food and wondering where we were all going after the game and, of course, hoping that we would win so it would be a really good time!
It made me think about the crowd at our football games back then. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Atlanta and it’s just not quite the same thing as growing up in a small town. Everyone here knows everyone else and most of them have been here their whole lives. Kids know that if they do something wrong, mom and dad will most likely hear about it. It’s hard to get away with much in a small town! I noticed the younger kids (ages 5-9) were running around and had the freedom to disappear from sight without much parental consternation because someone who knew them, possibly a distant cousin, would most likely be keeping an eye out for them where ever they went. Encouraging myself, I told my husband that I would at least have fun “people watching.”
Some pretty close friends of ours arrived with their friends and that lifted my spirits quite a bit. I was beginning to get over that feeling of being a stranger in a strange land. Our friends and their group are the official cheerleader fan club because most of their daughters are cheerleaders. Very good cheerleaders, I might add! We did a fair bit of tumbling and cartwheeling back in the day but these girls are amazing! Cheer leading today is much different from the way it was then (we won’t discuss how long ago “then” was.) They have much shorter skirts, cuter uniforms, less individual jumping, more being thrown in the air and definitely more tumbling! All in all, much more athletic I thought!
It was a beautiful warm night and the Adairsville Tigers were playing one of their big rivals, the Calhoun Warriors. I was a little concerned looking at the difference in the teams. The Calhoun boys looked a good bit bigger than our Tigers but I was hoping that maybe it was the white of their uniforms that just made them appear larger. All women know that white makes you look bigger. Right? See, I was already beginning to get into this a bit, I had begun thinking of them as our Tigers.
Well, the game started out with a 60 yard touchdown by the Warriors that was called back because of an ineligible receiver down field. They didn’t let that get them down and later managed to score on a two yard run. Meanwhile our Tigers kept stacking up penalty yards and were definitely doing the two steps back, one forward kind of thing. It looked like yellow flag day on the field. Even with all the penalties, the Tigers managed to put the ball in the Warrior’s red zone at the close of the first quarter and came back in the opening of the second quarter and scored on a toss and five yard run, tying the game 7-7.
Nothing much happened in the way of scoring during the remainder of the second quarter but I was beginning to think, ” hey, this is pretty good ball, even if I am having a hard time concentrating.” I am easily distracted because of my A.D.D so I missed some plays while watching the cheerleaders doing back flips and somersaults down the track and observing family weekend reunions across the bleachers. Then there were also the three boys who had painted their upper torsos and faces in the dark green and white school colors, each with a painted letter for AHS on their chests who were doing their own brand of cheer leading and dancing to band music. All very entertaining stuff…truly!
Right before half time we made our way to the concession stand to grab a burger and then back to our seats so we could see the half time entertainment. Half time is something that I always enjoy but that you never get to see on TV anymore. Again, very entertaining.
The first half had ended with the Tigers receiving a personal foul penalty (surprise, surprise) , which was enforced on the kickoff to start the second quarter. This gave Gordon good field position. The Tigers defense were able to stop the Warriors in spite of their advantage. During the third quarter Adairsville lost one of their key players when his ankle popped. He was out for the game. Their quarterback also left the field with cramps. The replacement quarterback was able to continue making headway into Warriors territory and then was able to make a 17 yard pass to put Adairsville outside the Warriors red zone. The original quarterback returned to the game and the third quarter ended with the Tigers in possession of the ball and in scoring position.
In the fourth quarter, our quarterback moved the team into the Warriors red zone and was able to make a 3 yard pass for a score. The kicker missed the kick, leaving the score at 13-7 with 10 minutes left in the game. Very exciting stuff. The crowd is getting noisy. Gordon continued to move the ball, trying to take the game but were intercepted with 5:41 on the clock. I’m beginning to get into nervous mode…my team is up but can they score and if not, can they continue to hold Gordon? All this time, the crowd is going nuts being egged on by the players on the field, the players on the side line, the cheerleaders and the three guys with paint. It is getting crazy fun!
Adairsville missed their opportunity and weren’t able to score but their punt put Gordon on their own 19 yard line with 3.5 minutes to go. Things are looking better but not for long. The Warriors were able to move the ball 81 yards to the inside of Adairsville’s 10 yard line. There was less than one minute remaining and the Warriors were in scoring position. Okay, I admit it. I was a little disheartened. It was really not looking too good for us.
Not quite biting my nails but with them in the general area of my mouth, I nervously watched as the Warrior’s quarterback found a receiver at the edge of the end zone and made the pass, the receiver dragged his feet while catching the ball and scored tying the game at 13-13. The kicker made the point and we were down 14-13 with 42 seconds in the game. Things weren’t so noisy anymore. We were all in a state of quiet disbelief! My husband half-heartedly said, “it’s not over ’til the fat lady sings, but she’s humming pretty loud right now.” Never one to give up, I am thinking they could do this but at the same time realizing that probably won’t happen. I mean 42 seconds! Get real. I figured our guys were as disheartened as the crowd and I didn’t expect much effort to be put forth to try to score.
Fortunately, the Warriors put the ball back into their own territory on the kick-off. Our quarterback looked for a receiver and found no one, so he ran for a 32 yard gain and went out of bounds to stop the clock. Okay, this crowd is absolutely deafening. I am screaming at the top of my lungs. Feet are stomping, hope is renewed. My husband’s yelling, “kick it.” They don’t. Our quarterback makes another run and gets to the Warriors 3 yard line but the clock is still running because he didn’t get out of bounds. There are three seconds on the clock as our quarterback gets his guys lined up, spikes the ball to stop the clock, leaving 8/10ths of a second on the clock. Okay remember how the game would be tied right now, if the kicker had made that extra point back in the second quarter? Now there’s all this pressure on this young kid, who it turns out, is the grandson of two of our favorite people in our life group at church. I am holding my breath. He kicks it. It is good! The Tigers win, the kid who could have been the goat is now a hero and the crowd storms the field. I am in a state of shock. This has been one of the best football games I’ve ever seen and to think I almost missed it!
Unfortunately, the Tigers will play away games for the next two weeks but I’m hoping that three Fridays from now my husband will say, “wanna go to the game tonight?” If he forgets about it, that’s okay because I won’t and I’ll be the one asking.
Small town, Friday night, some bright lights and a football field – what a great place to be!
Note: My husband just yelled for me to come watch the end of a football game. If you want a replay of what I just described, check your sports station for the last two minutes of today’s game between Chicago and Atlanta. Wow!