As the final seconds ticked off the clock, we raced onto the field. We ran out of the stands and waited as our boys won the game that sent them to the state championship game for the first time in Declo High School history. They were all smiles, as was everyone else in the stands, as hugs were doled out and congratulations received. My dad was the first one I saw. I was always the first one on the field to give him a hug and tell him the boys did great.
“They did great, daddy,” I said after I had given him a celebratory hug, “I am so proud of all of you.”
“Thank you so much sweetie,” he said with his arm around my shoulders, “Did you know that you make me happy?”
My dad always said that to me. He told me that I made him happy. My mother was always a little bit harsher on me, but I always knew that I made my dad proud.
I had grown up a small town princess. My father, Kelly Kidd, was the head football coach at Declo High School. I had been his water girl when I was younger, but now I was his little cheerleader. It was my first year on the varsity squad, and I loved getting to be on the field, the bus, and right there when my dad won another game.
My mother walked next to my father then so I told him I loved him and I gave him another quick hug before I joined the other cheerleaders to roll up our signs and gather up our pom-poms.
The bus ride home was filled with excitement over the game and the upcoming week. We talked about pep rallies that needed to be planned and signs that would need to be made. It was too early to be nervous then.
The next week began with that same buzz of excitement. The halls were decorated, and the time and place for our state championship game was set. We prepared a dance for the halftime show, and we booked the fire truck for the pep rally that would send them off to their state championship game.
Signs went up by Tuesday with the words Finish and Believe written in big, bold letters. Everyone was counting on our boys to give us something to believe in by finishing what they started. Sports mean a lot in our small town. People buy lifetime passes to our games, and the entire town throws tailgate parties. People help out even if they do not have an athlete participating. This championship game meant to a lot to everyone who called themselves a Declo Hornet.
It was a week from Hell as my mother would put it. Life did not automatically stop for a state championship game. I still had to cheer for girls basketball, I had to do homework, and on Wednesday, I had to bake cookies for a church activity. I went to bed late every night, and I think I might have forgotten I had a father some days. He was never home before six, and he was in bed every night by nine. I forgot my best friend’s birthday, but I just hoped that everything would end up okay. In a week, there was a real possibility that we would be the Idaho High School 2A State Football Champions.
It was the Wednesday before the game. I was home baking cookies for a church activity when my mom called me.
“You will never believe who just got hurt.”
My heart stopped. My mind flashed through the quarterback, Jeremy Jenkins, and the running backs, Larsen and Tyler. It would be a loss to have any one of them on the bench.
“Drew,” my mother said, “blew his knee out at practice tonight.”
Drew Matsen was one of my best friends. He took me to my first school dance, and he probably had been in the sandbox with me when I was two years old. He was the Center. He was a really good Center. My friend, Dane, put it, “He is the guy frothing at the mouth on the line of scrimmage.” I did not even think of Drew getting hurt because he was too tough.
I made it through my activity before I gathered up my extra cookies to take to Drew’s house. I made the trip with only my sister. My father would call later; I was not going as a member of the coach’s family. I was going because Drew was one of my best friends.
He had just returned from the emergency room when I reached his house, and, looking back, I do not think he even remembers me being there. He was floating on clouds. We sat and talked for a while as I fought back my tears. Drew would be fine, but our team would not. It was selfish, but I really wanted a state championship. We needed Drew to be great.
I left that night with a heavy heart. The team was leaving the next day. Drew would go with them, but he would not be playing on Friday afternoon.
The news broke the next day at school and everyone was heartbroken. Drew was a good football player, but, more than that, he was an all around great guy. Everyone liked him. Everyone cheered for him at games. Everyone was his friend.
We had a pep rally that day before the team left. We called it “A kiss for luck,” and, while we told them that the cheerleaders would be kissing them, we brought in their mothers to kiss their blindfolded sons. We preformed new cheers that we had choreographed using the words on everyone’s mind. Finish. Believe.
My dad gave a speech at the end of the rally.
“To begin, I would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this record breaking season,” my dad started, “Thank you to the cheerleaders, the dance team, the band, and even to the boys on their couch in the stands.”
The entire crowd laughed when we thought of the four senior boys who had went to a thrift store, and bought the most disgusting couch they could find. They brought their couch to every game to sit on while they cheered on our team. I laughed when I thought of all the fun times I had with that stupid couch even though I never sat in the stands for a football game.
We went car jumping late one Friday night after a game. Ten of us loaded up into a little car, and flew over a hill in the mountains going one hundred miles an hour. It was one of the stupidest things I have ever done but also one of the most fun. We returned to the school where another friend’s truck, with the couch in the back, was parked.
“What is that on the roof?” asked my friend, Conner.
“I don’t know,”
“I think it is a bed,”
“Guys, it is a couch,”
“The couch?” I asked
Friends from the party we had been at before deciding to go car jumping had figure out a way to put the couch on the roof. We laughed our heads off as we tried to figure out a way to get the couch off the roof. In the end, we had to push it off the roof. We said good- bye to the couch and pushed. That stupid couch did not even break. We actually found some money and a set of keys when it bounced off the ground. There is always something good inside a bad situation.
“To my team,” my father continued, “thank you for letting me be the jockey on a great racehorse. I am so proud of all of you.”
“Now, in our lives, we hit some potholes,” my dad started with tears in his eyes, “We hit a pothole last night, didn’t we Drew?”
Drew laughed, but his eyes were also full of tears.
“Now when we hit those potholes, we just have to move on, and get stronger because of it. We cannot let those little problems stop us from being great. Drew does not want us to throw this game because he cannot play,” my dad said, “Let’s win this thing for him.”
After my dad was finished, we went to line the halls. All three hundred students stood out to cheer our team onto the bus. Drew was the first one to leave the school, and he met me at the end where I stood next to the door of the bus. He gave me a hug, and I did not know what to say. I just hugged back. My father and my little brother were the last.
“Good luck, little guy,” I told my little brother, Christian. He had taken over my post as water boy. I gave him a hug and a kiss that he wiped off.
My dad stopped in front of me next, “Good- bye sweetie,”
“Good luck, daddy,” I said.
“Thank you,” he started, “I love you.”
As we were walking back into the school after we sent the team off, we noticed the spot where an array of potholes were scattered. Everyone of them had been filled in that day while we were in school.
Text messages started rolling around three the next morning. While all the girls at Declo High School were sleeping soundly, the football team was not.
“What r u doing?”
“We cannot sleep,”
We were probably not as nice as we could have been when our boyfriends needed someone to talk to at three in the morning. They said later that everyone was awake, but no one was talking. They also knew that there was no good television after midnight.
School that morning was pointless. Nobody worked because everyone was nervous. We wanted that game to be over. We were ready to be champions.
The cheerleaders and the dance team left for the game around eleven. We arrived while the team was still warming up on the field. We issued out final words of luck, and then they went to the locker room. We sat and waited for the game to begin for what seemed like hours. Then we won the coin toss.
We played a hard game for the next three hours. We made a point; they made a point. They scored a touchdown; we scored a touchdown. Interception for interception. Turnover for turnover.
We have picture that was taken of the scoreboard with two minutes and twenty- two seconds left on the clock and a tied score of twenty- two to twenty- two. We attempted to kick a field- goal, but we were unsuccessful. The game went into overtime.
We started the season with a four and four record. The last game we had lost all season was to Valley High School. My dad said that they were in the running for worst football team in Idaho. Our team got cocky and we lost. That one loss put our district into a three way tie breaker in which only two teams would make it to the state playoff.
Our tie breaker rules were: each team gets four downs to either make a first down or a touchdown from the forty- five yard line. Whoever had the most points after both teams were finished, won.
We had beat Glenns Ferry High School before, but they were able to kick a field goal that went in after we had already been shut down by their defense. They took the district title, and we were left to beat Valley. We won that time.
We went first. We made our touchdown, but the Parma Panthers were able to stop our two point conversion. Our defense put up the fight of their lives, but Parma was able to make a touchdown. We held our breath as the kicker reared up to kick the point after attempt.
The Hornets lost that game by one point in over- time. As the team went to a huddle on the side of the field, I followed, hugging both my younger brother and sister. The coaches spoke of how proud they were of the boys. They had made it farther than any other team, and they had done the season after my father’s first losing season in 2007.
2007 was the first year that Declo football had not dominated the conference. At the end of the season, my father told the juniors, “Don’t let this happen again.”
One of those boys who was now a senior told the juniors, “Don’t let this happen to you again.”
We hit a pothole that day. We did not win the championship that we so desperately wanted, but we came together as a school that season. From the cheerleaders to the dance team, and from the band to the four boys with their couch, we became a school not only the week before the big game, but the entire year just because we were Hornets. My friend’s mother left a note on my Facebook page, “Be proud of yourselves. You are making history.” We overcame our pothole, and that loss has only made us stronger and more determined in everything the Declo Hornets have done this year.
Hornets, thank you for all your support and a great adventure last fall. You guys are great. I would not be here without you!