Hardworking Ranger gridders inspire journalistic meltdown
By Jesse Phelps
Well, this may be the death knell
for my budding journalistic career, but I've got to admit the
stone-cold truth. All sense of professional decorum and journalistic
integrity left me, blown away on a stout Ojai breeze last Friday
night when the Nordhoff varsity football team beat Oaks Christian
to win the Tri-Valley League title.
There I was, sprinting down the sideline and yelling, "Go
baby go!" like I was at Santa Anita, as Will Strong scored
the winning touchdown, completing the unlikely comeback. (I swear
I kept up with him pretty well.)
There I was, questioning an official about what I wanted to believe
was a bad penalty call, because, darnit, I didn't want to see
a season's worth of tremendous effort wasted on a blown whistle.
(I nearly got thrown out - that hasn't happened since the last
reggae show I attended.)
And there I was, getting chills as the coach told me how proud
he was of his boys for pulling though, and experiencing their
joy as the guys told me after the game that this was the best
feeling they'd ever experienced.
Why did I lose my composure, you may ask? Because these guys
deserved it. Because Max Thomas and Andy Doyle mangled their
legs in pursuit of it. Because their teammates refused to believe
they were out of it, down their two leading receivers (and defensive
backs) and 15 points in the third quarter.
This Ranger team is special. It's a team led verbally in the
locker room by a lineman and by example on the field by a junior
running back. They're not that fast. They're not that big. They're
running a new offensive system and they lost their first game
of the year.
But they haven't lost since because they are smart and they have
a whole heck of a lot of heart. Not giving up is one thing. But
to truly believe that you can overcome the types of obstacles
they have is a rare quality.
And they have class. They take the time to call the newspaper
and give a writer props for a well-written story. How rare is
So, shamelessly, I admit they have won me over. From here on
out I pledge not to impede the officials and I will try my darndest
not to look like a jackass on the sidelines. But silently, I'll
continue to root them on as far as they can go.
Minus two of their top threats, the playoffs won't be easy. Still,
somehow, I think they'll find a way to keep the momentum. Heck,
since that season-opening road loss to perennial power Moorpark,
no obstacle has stopped them yet.
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