Monday, November 14, 2011

NDP vs. Ironwood Football Dev Diary--Thoughts from the Dog Pound

      Maybe when my parents let me go to the football game last Thursday and somehow did not mention the late start in their reasoning, I should have been tipped off. But minutes later, Nolan Bidese and I were driving down to Tucson, and all I was ready to think about was the chicken-bacon-ranch sandwich sitting all toasty-warm in the bag next to me. Five pages of notes at the game and I could call it a night well-spent. I did zero homework. They set up that late start for a reason, after all.
   Of course, when I woke up early the next morning to let my dogs outside, I run into my mother in the kitchen. Before I even open my mouth, she tells me that she will not be driving me to school late (my sister Alexis and I share a car, and she did not go to the game). My mother did not have work that day. She would have been home. Ouch.
   So this dev-diary is the only thing that I really accomplished Thursday night. Four and a half hours in the car not included, it covers the majority of the football game minute-by-minute. Thanks goes out to Nolan, who stood ready with his phone whenever I needed to know what time it was. If you see him, shake his hand. Tell him he is a hero. I do not care if you mean it or not, it will brighten his day.

7:18—We finally arrive. The visitor’s section is full; looks like it will be pretty tough to balance being a fan with being a writer. I blame the three people who told me to do one of these things; I guess that is what peer pressure will give you.

7:21—Nolan and I are crowded to the top of the Dog Pound, and sweet Jesus we are next to the drum line. All six of them are wearing black. It was a white out. I just do not understand.

                Nolan comments on the Saints’ snazzy purple pants. He decides he will be the fashion police here tonight. I approve.

7:22—The pom team looks like they are staying warm down on the track dancing it up. Those moves look even better when you are freezing your butt off. They should teach them to the rest of us so we can all stay warm too.

7:24—It is the end of the first quarter, and the Ironwood band is hoppin’ across the field. They must be really secure with themselves, because the rest of their crowd is sitting. Losers.

7:25—As Jordan Gehrke hits Mo White for a first down, Nolan and I notice that Coach Hollowell is rocking the tucked-in sweatshirt look down on the sidelines. His pants look a size too tight, and Nolan says he looks like a ballerina. Make that a classy ballerina.
7:26—Father Phil is also down on the field in an LSU jacket. So close.
7:27—The first down markers for Ironwood look like giant pieces of pizza stuck up on posts. Those budget cuts will sure getcha.
7:29—Luke Taffuri converts a key fourth down on a run up the left side. I swear that guy is the prototype for the ideal human being. He can sing too. I am now that much more insecure about myself.
7:30—Joey Prather tries to read my notes over my shoulder. Something tells me he will not be the last one to try some sneaky business.
7:32—Sampson, our beloved canine friend, tries a little booty shake to rile up the crowd. No thank you. There are better ways to accomplish that task, bud.
                I need some gum really badly. I have a weird fear of the possibility of bad breath. I suppose there are worse things to be afraid of. Like Connor Gallagher. More on that later.
7:35—The Ironwood crowd has lightsabers. I will admit I am jealous. There has to be someone at NDP who has a Mace Windu lightsaber and can rock the purple (I know the colors, that’s right).
7:38—Trevor Jones comes through in the clutch with a piece of gum. Fresh pack too. What a guy.
7:39—Cheer and pom do a joint cheer. It is nice to see them working together. I wonder if our spiritline has one of those cliché high school feuds between the cheerleaders and the pommies. Admit it, you kind of want to see a catfight on the sideline. Maybe more than kind of.
7:40—Spencer Lewis asks me if I have seen the Ironwood lightsabers. He is only five minutes late on that.
7:43—I discover that I swear a lot more when I am in the Dog Pound. There is quite a bit of material that did not make the cut for this article. Maybe in college I will release uncensored versions.
                The drum line tries to pull some fancy stuff and do the Mario Bros. theme song. They thought they had a really good idea with that.
7:44—Gehrke converts two straight first downs with his legs. I would say he is like a Tim Tebow but he can actually throw and he does not annoy the living hell out of everybody. So really he is nothing like Tim Tebow.
7:45—The Ironwood announcer runs an ad for the school’s driving class. So . . . are Tusconers just that bad at driving?
7:48—Grant Martinez makes a great catch in the right flat. I love that guy, and so does the Dog Pound. A chant ensues.
                The spiritline tries a cheer that tells the crowd to “get a little bit rowdy”. I think my sister’s softball team did the same thing back when we were in grade school. Nice to see how cheering has evolved over the years.
7:50—Nolan and I are looking forward to the halftime show. We see that the Ironwood band is going to perform, and they are complete with flag-twirlers. This sparks a debate: is flag-twirling athletic? Is it a sport? You decide. Seriously, comment on it, this has been bothering me.
7:52—Andrew Thomas makes a Larry Fitzgerald-esque catch along the right sideline. I want that on top plays.
7:54—Gehrke to Martinez over the middle for a Notre Dame touchdown! Kevin Sullivan puts it through, and we are tied! I wrote the touchdown in my notes as all caps, but I thought that would be just a little too enthusiastic here.
7:56—Sampson joins in on pom’s little leg-kick thing they do after each touchdown. A for effort.
7:57—Halftime. When the Dog Pound takes a seat, the girl behind me asks, “Is someone hurt?” Facepalm.
7:59—The Ironwood band takes the field for the halftime show, and they are freaking huge. They could literally make a football team out of that squad. That spurs me to think of a beautiful situation in which we do a band vs. band annual football game in which our drumline is pitted against the bands of other schools. It could be a 7-on-7 tournament, and the drumline could use Deacon Carbone to fill in that extra spot. I would go and watch. I would pay money. You would too, I know it.
8:00—The Ironwood drumline does a little bit of what looks like interpretive dance to start the performance. Are our guys taking notes?
8:01—Nolan runs off to go find his track coach, so I take a spot at the top of the bleachers to get a better view of the show. The flag-twirlers are in full swing. I wonder if they pick the flag people based solely on aesthetics. Probably. They seem like pom-wannabes.
                Do conductors really do anything? The Ironwood guy was sure going like crazy. It seems like just a bunch of fluff to me. But hey, he was sure trying hard.
8:03—Nolan rejoins me for some flag-twirling analysis, declaring it a “lost art”. I agree, and we declare the Ironwood band a proud tribute to the 1960s.
8:07—I return to the center of the Dog Pound. Jack Ittel is in front of me rocking the hooded sweatshirt. He only put his hood halfway up, probably to protect that award-winning hair.
8:11—The halftime show ends and I do not even notice. Jordan Costello, who has recently joined us, gives it a sub-par C+. Nolan gives it an F—for flag-twirlers.
8:13—I am stuck behind some kid who managed to find some pom-poms. He is waving them profusely. If this persists for the entire half . . .
                The teams retake the field to warm up. Ironwood does some frog-hops. What is this, Pop Warner?
8:15—The Ironwood mascot makes his appearance. He looks like Donald Duck with a mullet.
                As I am scribbling that last bit down, the Dog Pound suddenly decides to pull out the “I Believe” cheer. I miss it. This is the sacrifice I make, folks.
8:16—Jordan Costello, after seeing that Saguaro running back DJ Foster racked up 508 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in the school’s first playoff game, says that he expects 800 yards and 15 touchdowns this week. I checked the stats; he went for 155 yards and two scores. What a scrub.
8:18—K-Sull opens the half with a monstrous touchback. What a champ.
8:20—Will Scola, the X Factor, is in the game. We are excited.
8:21—After an Ironwood touchdown, their quality announcer declares that “Slytherin” will attempt the extra point. I swear. I wonder what position Gryffindor plays.
                Microsoft Word does not spell-check Gryffindor. This pleases me.
                Tim Hawes puts his mouthpiece behind his ear when not in use. Convenient.
8:27—Remember that pom-pom kid from before? Well he moved a little farther to the right so it all worked out, but that still did not prevent me from seeing his gum fall out of his mouth and him returning it to that location. I spat my gum out soon afterward.
                Mo White makes a bobbling catch and subsequently gives me a heart attack. He seems to do this at least once a game.
                As a side note, Mo White has apparently coined the term “Rimming” (fact check) in reference to playing the video game Skyrim. I approve of this.
8:30—There is an Ironwood injury on the field, and when the guy, number 66, gets up the whole crowd can see that his foot is literally sideways. Not going to lie, it was pretty cool.
8:32—CJ Harvey (the people’s punter, as always) comes on to kick it away. We want a fake.
                The foot guy from literally two minutes ago? He comes in for Ironwood on offense. I feel like a wimp.
8:37—The Ironwood lightsabers come on again. Are lightsabers “ablaze” or is there another word?
                According to our announcer friend, Josh “Rock-ner” makes the tackle. Unbelievable.
8:41—I see that my good friend Avery Korth’s hair is still perfect on the NDP sideline. This means he has not been in. I am disappointed. I later learned he went in on special teams. Props for the hair, then.
                My notes are beginning to wear a little thin. We need some spice.
8:42—Speaking of spice (Rhett Johnston), I notice that Bree Schiffer is back from her concussion . . . I literally do not know how to close this statement.
8:45—Nolan returns with the report that the parent section is particularly tense this evening, so we decide to spend 15 minutes in the heart of the lion’s den. We run over there, and I sit down next to a small boy who immediately shuffles away from me. Ouch.
8:46—The little kid next to me farted. Fourteen whole minutes left.
8:48—A Notre Dame player is hit heading out of bounds, and the parents practically tear the referee’s head off in their lust for a penalty. I tell Nolan I’m afraid.
8:49—Is there anything more bothersome to a football fan than the species that is the football mom? Like a freaking fly is buzzing in your ear over and over. And over.
                Nick Cole is currently putting the team on his back. He has two straight first downs. One father behind me yells (literally) at the players on the sidelines to “get loud”. Does he realize how little he is helping?
8:50—Jen Kish unknowingly lightens the mood by trying and failing to inspire some cheerleading into a little kid that is hanging out with her. Poor guy just was not up for a little ra-ra-ra-sis-boom-bah. Kish had some moves though. I wonder if she was aware people were watching her.
8:51—Josh Eggler shakes my hand on his way by, and I think I pee a little.
                Nick Cole does not help matters when he goes up the middle for another NDP touchdown! It was in my notebook as all caps again.
8:52—K-Sull has not even kicked the extra point yet when another father behind me is yelling at the defense to “do something!” and “take the ball and ram it down their throats!” I should have brought a weapon in case I need to fight my way out. One of those lightsabers would have been ideal.
                Nolan declares the best tradition of NDP football mothers is the legitimate singing of the NDP fight song. I guess you really can’t go back.
8:53—Sampson does the push-ups this time with the cheerleaders. Good dog.
8:55—It is the start of the fourth quarter. Nolan and I rise with the rest of the crowd, but we are sitting within seconds because we unknowingly obscure the view of one Tess McPherson. This does not ease my fears.
8:58—I think if the parents knew I was down here quoting them, they would not say half of the things they are saying. Their cheers are growing more and more desperate. One dad is literally going down the sidelines and calling out player after player by number. “Come on 72! Come on 21! Come on 15! Come on 28!” I want to leave.
9:00—Another Ironwood players suffers an injury. Their appetite for blood satisfied, the parents only cheer louder. Nolan and I bail like two bats out of hell.
9:01—Nolan and I return to the safety of the Dog Pound only to hear from Darian Deimeke that we had missed both a fight and a dance-off between the two mascots. This upsets me. I would have bet on Sampson with all those push-ups.
9:02—Wouldn’t you know it, another freaking injury timeout for an Ironwood player. They must not have realized this was a football game and not a slumber party pillow fight.
9:05—I find that in this new seating arrangement I am sitting in front of Austin Blanchard and Rachel Largay. I think my heart just melted a little.
9:11—Connor Gallagher is officially the funniest player to watch on the sidelines. He paces a lot. His jersey somehow managed to turn almost black on the front. I like that, it means we’re seeing some effort. This should all be taken as a compliment, by the way; that kid could eat me if he really wanted.
9:16—Allie York asks me if she should go with Dairy Queen or kettle corn. I tell her a better question would be if she should show up for newspaper or ditch again. Zing.
9:18—The announcer describes how the Ironwood running back “slithered” through the line. What does that even mean?
9:19—In the final minute of the game, the Ironwood crowd stands up for the first time. Nice to see some spirit over there, jerkwads.
   When the game ended, I stood in the stands with Nolan and seriously considered not running this article. But at the end of every game, the lights turn off, the bleachers empty, and life goes on. You may think that our Cinderella-story is over, but in reality, we are far from the ending of this one.
   This season, our team out-performed any expectations that anyone had for us. Coming into a realigned division with teams the likes of Chaparral and Hamilton, poor little Notre Dame was brushed aside. The playoffs were a long shot, and a winning record would mean beating bigger, stronger, more experienced teams that were all used to running with the big dogs. Since we were yet to contend alongside the likes of these “big dogs”, we were an afterthought.
   After a rough 1-3 start, an upset over Desert Mountain triggered a change in our program. In the wake of a tragedy that surpassed anything the football field could bring, our Saints won four of their next five and recovered to finish 6-4 and slide past Horizon into the playoffs. We believed when no one else would, and now our little community has grown into something that demands attention.
   An upset over #3 Salpointe Catholic in the first round of the playoffs only sealed the envelope. We had already gone farther than anyone thought we would, and now we had gone even further. This team was not a fluke. This team is one that belongs exactly where it is, because this team can contend with the best.
   The loss last Thursday was an emotional one, for sure. But here is what makes it different than any of the others: no one is regretful with how this season ended. Disappointment is natural, but that just means that our determination and drive toward our cause was passionate and powerful. At the end of the day, no one was let down. No one had any regrets. No one is looking back.
   From coaches to friends to family, at home or in the stands, no one is anything but proud.
   Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for a small crowd in the visitor’s bleachers on a cool Thursday evening, inspiration came from a group of young men who overcame more adversity than should come on a high school football field. But the best part was, they were not the only ones. We overcame it together, as a Notre Dame community. Looking ahead, all we can do is continue growing stronger.
   I could be really cheesy right here and use that whole cliché about true winners being more than just winners on the field, but honestly I do not think that really applies here. We have had success before, so I do not think it is fair to say that this is the season that we became winners.
   I think that Notre Dame has always been made up of winners. This season, we just finally had something to win for.

Thanks guys.

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