Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)
TITLE: The Cinderella Team
By Debora Dyess
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A school too small for the 4A designation, we had two schools in the district that qualified as 5A schools. How we ended up in the same district we may never know. But we were. And, knowing this year would be a grueling test of our make, we played hard.
Actually, the boys played hard. We, as parents, got up early to get them to predawn workouts, rearranged dinner schedules to accommodate late practices, sat in the stands and chewed our nails.
The season was a battle. Our little team faced opponents bigger and better equipped every Friday night. All of their friends, family and neighbors watched. In a small Texas town, win and you’re heroes for the week. Lose and everyone finds someone to blame. It’s tough being a Lion.
Every loss was greeted by snarls, advise, irritation and loss of enthusiasm. It seemed the pride of the town rode on the backs of that team. Each mistake was meticulously discussed everywhere form WalMart to church. Coaches were criticized, trainers slammed and the boys themselves held up to disdain.
But it’s also wonderful. We watched as Casey bloomed from a long-legged, clumsy sophomore into a ‘never-miss’ quarterback dynamo. When Kendrick began catching everything thrown in his direction, we called his name like a sacred chant. The cheers rang as Bronson played both sides of the line so well that it seemed he’d been born to do nothing else. We marveled as T.J. faced bigger guys with the bulldog ferocity and the stubbornness of a mule, dragging them down even as they barreled over him. We cheered as Currie (“That’s MY boy!”) leapt, soaring over the heads of huge offensive linemen, slamming or rattling an opposing quarterback, sending gasps through both sides of the stadium.
And we listened. James quoted Bible verses during his pep rally speech. In another, Bronson gave glorified God for a healed injury. Coaches prayed aloud amidst jubilee. Boys stood week after week giving Christ praise in this public setting, putting Him ahead of football. “I’m proud to be a Brownwood Lion,” each said, but that wasn’t all they were proud of.
And we watched them develop as athletes, and as men.
We had no stars—only committed, determined young men making dreams materialize. We had to win our final district game by eighteen to move on. The final score, 60-10, ignited the team and the town. And so…the play-offs.
Our boys moved forward, game by game. No one slacked off. No one blinked. Crowd sizes grew. Even in out of town games our side of the stadium remained standing room only. We yelled our support, stomping, until it sounded like an army surrounded the arena. We wanted everyone to know we were the Lions, the underdogs and we were there to win. And win we did.
This season, as all seasons, ended. Not with a ring on the fingers of our warriors, but with a hard fought battle that bloodied and battered our guys, leaving them disheartened and wet-eyed. But even in defeat I saw pride and honor in them—in their graciousness to opponents and fans after the game and in the love they showed for each other.
The finale, then, was the football banquet a few weeks later.
Our radio announcer stood behind the podium microphone, looking out over players, families and supporters. “We had a great year,” he said. “And I think I know why. We have a great coach, a committed team and a plan. That’s what it takes to succeed. And we did succeed—far beyond the expectations of anyone living outside this town. I want to personally thank the coaches for their leadership. Thank you, men, for showing our boys that taking a stand extends far beyond a football field—it begins and ends with your relationship with God. It begins and ends with your commitment to Him and His purpose. It begins and ends when you have a Great Coach, a committed team and a Plan.” He paused. “And, in case you missed it, God is the Coach, fellow believers are the team and the Bible is the Plan. We may have hard seasons in our lives, but we will always know that, in the end—in the finals that matter the most—we are winners because of the love of our Great Coach. And I’m proud not only to be a Brownwood Lion, but I’m proud to be a Christian.”
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