Don’t call it a Cinderella story.
The tale of the 2016 Dryden High School Eagles Football squad is one of tyrannical dominance forged in the pain of a soul-crushing defeat after last season’s semi-final.
It’s a revenge story among other things — not against any person or team in particular — but against life’s lemons, the random cruelty of fate, a successful attempt to seize their destiny from the influence of outside circumstances.
The team’s ‘Leave No Doubt’ ethos was the hitman’s ‘double-tap’, a determined effort for insurance against failure. That ethic was more than just something for coaches to yell out, it was a physical manifestation that left traces on every scoresheet in every one of the Eagles games in an unbeaten season. In 9 of 10 games the Eagles failed to give up no more than 13 points, outscoring their opponents 340-65 for the season.
It’s easy to cast such sweeping profundities on a group of kids without recognizing the intricacy of the moving parts within the machine.
A virtually impenetrable Eagles defense turned the Portage Collegiate Trojans back twice within five yards of the goal line late in last Wednesday’s game. The Eagles defensive line, with four shut-out wins to their credit, supported an offense just as dangerous as they were smothering.
Quarterback Jarret Hicks (754 yards) and Liam Wrolstad (743 yds.) were the pokey end of highly diversified ground game which included Aiden Bibeau (248 yds.), Mason Desautels (244 yds.) and alternate QB Carter Armstrong (120 yds.).
Yet some of the defining moments of the championship final were bold and unexpected passing plays that shone a new light on the versatility of the squad.
I can’t say enough about the experience of following the team this year. Anyone who’s ever spoken to me for more than 10 seconds, can tell I’m not a team sports guy. I never have talked the talk — I actually consider most sports chatter lame male posturing. Years of covering major-junior hockey convinced me that there’s a reason why most sports interviews suck. Talking about sports ‘is like dancing about architecture’. Something essential is lost, something that transcends language.
But I know what it’s like to have brothers, to be a part of something larger than myself. I know what it’s like to want to throw those lemons through life’s living room window. I don’t need to spew jargon like Dick Butkus to feel inspired.
The skill and fortitude with which the Dryden Eagles accomplished their goals in 2016 will be forever etched in local history. To be a witness to each of those young men experiencing a moment they will likely cherish to their dying days was satisfying to no end. — Chris Marchand