Starting what they finish: Lake Station completes football game versus South Central with 10 players
UNION MILLS -- The game had ended, Lake Station coach Jason Wolfe had spoken to his team after the 49-14 loss to South Central, and as the wounded, weary Eagles trudged toward the bus, they stopped at the track to sing the school fight song with the cheerleaders and a handful of parents who remained.
"I started it when I came in," said Wolfe, who is in his fifth season at LS. "It helps the kids get school spirit. Some of them don't know the words, but we're working on it. We appreciate the parents who come out every week and the girls are behind us. It's a nice way to re-pay them."
Lake Station came into the game with 15 active players. By the time, they reached the fourth quarter, they were down to 10, one short of the number that's supposed to be on the field, as a result of several injuries.
"If we start something, we're going to finish it," said Peyton McIntosh, who had to leave on the Eagles' final possession with a shoulder injury. "That's just how it is. We fight. We don't quit. We would never give up on ourselves, we would never give up on the coaches, we would never give up on each other. That's why we're here."
To the Eagles' credit, they scored on the series despite playing 10 versus 11, a 3-year run by Karmine Hubbard and Romeo Guerra's conversion providing a morale boost for a team that needed a lift.
"We're turning that corner in a little bit where the kids are taking pride in what they're doing," Wolfe said. "It's not always great, but we're going to come out, play hard and finish it off. What we're trying to build is not being quitters, finishing. I put it on them. They know I'm not going to quit on them. They know the coaches are here for them. I keep saying they're the most resilient kids in the region. Man, they just keep coming at it."
South Central led 43-0 at the half. It could have been 50, but Satellites coach Buzz Schoff had quarterback Zach Hanchar take a knee with the ball at the LS 6 to run out the clock.
"I know the old cliche is anything goes in the first half, then you call off dogs in the second half, but I'm not in the business of embarrassing kids, no matter what school they go to," Schoff said. "If I'm on the other side of that, please take a knee, sir. I'm going to coach a game like how I'd expect a team to coach against me. Yeah, we can score there, but what's the difference between 43 and 50? What advantage does that give me? I don't see any positives coming out of that situation. It's still a running clock in the second half, we're still putting in our No. 2s, they still only have 12 guys."
Given the fact that Lake Station had given some thought to not playing the second half affirmed Schoff's decision.
"All it does is demoralize a team that's pretty demoralized already," he said. "I'm not going to do that. Yeah, I want to win homecoming and put a score like that on the board, but I don't want to make it so another team no longer likes football. I coach high school football because I think it's the greatest game you can possibly play. I want everybody to have the opportunity to do that. Not very many of them take advantage of that opportunity, but I want them to continue to have that opportunity. If we score there, maybe the whole team doesn't come out for the second half and they just cut the football program and now I'm guilty of making it so they no longer play. I'm not that type of person."
Wolfe talked to players, his coaches and the referee at halftime about continuing, but with competitive games coming up against winless Bowman Academy and Boone Grove, they wanted to see it through despite the roster attrition.
"We're beat up," he said. "The first half, we started losing guys and even started thinking about not coming out in the second half. They didn't want to quit. We had to earlier in the year, and I felt like it was a big setback with the kids. If we didn't play last week, I felt we were going to lose kids."
With the running clock in the second half, Lake Station used up most of the time with its two scoring drives, getting on the board when McIntosh connected with Hubbard (six catches, 52 yards) on a 19-yard touchdown pass.
"I love my brothers," McIntosh said. "We go to work every day of the week. It's hard, but I just love this game. I just like proving people wrong, coming out here and doing our best. Hopefully they'll see the outcome of the game one day. We're going to keep fighting, keep practicing, getting stronger, stay together as a group."
Their perseverance earned the respect of Schoff and the Satellites.
"Usually, if a team is down to 10 guys, either they call the game or they keep taking a knee," S.C.'s Tony Guevara said. "They kept pushing and ended up marching down the field, scoring a touchdown. Big props to them to keep pushing through the injuries."
"They wanted to show they didn't give up," Satellites quarterback Zach Hanchar said. "They were down a lot, but it didn't matter. They were going to finish this game out, show everybody the courage they have. Even at a disadvantage, they were still able to do their thing."