Inside the Swarm – Riverside


By Paul Davis

Pre-game devotional
Coach Tommy Bobo began the meeting by noting that Riverside was a good football team and they should not take them lightly. “We must play intelligent on defense,” continued Bobo, “and we have got to be more consistent on offense. Coach Brannon will be bringing out devotional tonight.”

Brannon began by writing 1990, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001*, and 2002 on the board.

“I want to talk to you tonight about the prodigal son,” began Brannon. “Many of you have heard that bible story and it gives us an idea of how God sees us.

“The story about this man and his two sons is found in Luke 15: 11-31 and I want to read it to you through verse 16.” After reading to the verse where the son longed to eat the food given to the pigs, Brannon summarized his reading. 

“One son was impatient. He wanted his inheritance NOW. So his dad gave it to him and he went to a foreign land and wasted it on drinking and prostitutes. He blew it all. He didn’t have a dime. He was left to feeding the pigs and, because he was starving, ate what they ate.”

Brannon then read verses 17 to 20. “This is kinda like our team. The prodigal son didn’t put anything into his family. Past State Champions ‘put in’ to that goal. We want fame but we don’t want to earn it. In life, you have to work for what you want.

“The prodigal son got tired of his life and decided to return home. Here is what the Bible says, starting in verse 20 through 32.”

After reading those verses, Brannon continued.

“Dad didn’t get mad at his son for all his mistakes. He celebrated his return. His son had accepted responsibility for his mistakes. How do you think his son felt? He was glad to be loved and things restored.

“But what about the other son? Remember how he acted. He had stayed home, worked, helped his dad, did the right things. He probably thought that his dad would hold his brother’s misconduct against him. So, he’s out in the field and hears all the celebrating, learns what is happening, and gets mad. His dad tells him that he would receive everything he has but they all should rejoice because his brother had been found.

“If you ‘put in,’ you get rewards. If you have been like the prodigal son, you have got to ‘put in’ for us to have a great season. Nothing ahead of you will be given to you. You have to earn it.

“This was Homecoming for the son. We need to get our inheritance tonight. God’s love is like the father’s. It is unconditional. When we sin, we can repent and God will make it right. Where are you with God? Where are you with this game tonight? For those of you who have been like the prodigal son on this team, it is time to come back. And it’s time for the rest of the team to welcome you back like the father did. And it’s time you claim your inheritance.”

Coach Bobo told the team that only they knew where they were spiritually and only they knew whether they were in the game for themselves or the team.

At that point, Coach Bobo asked the seniors to remain to listen to Coach Floyd Lyles while the others went to the cafeteria.

“I know that things haven’t gone as well as you planned,” began Lyles. “Sometimes you need to reflect back to your freshman year and realize where you were then and where you are now. The playoffs are not guaranteed. Good teams, even the best team can loose in the playoffs.

“There are still too many people here with egos. Last year you started 0-5. The TEAM turned it around, not one person. Not all of you will play in college but the team will follow your leadership. Drop the baggage and pull for each other. On the board are the State Champion years and the asterisk on 2001 indicates we played for it. You will NOT put 2006 on there unless you change things from ‘all about me’ to ‘all about us.’ When Clinton came here last week, I watched them get off the bus and walk into the stadium. I could not find ONE person who wasn’t focused. I saw a TEAM that night. Stop being cool. Pick each other up on offense and defense.”

The Defense
Coach Mike Hawkins reviewed several defensive plays before discussing general defense issues. “We will be going with a five man front the first series no matter what,” began Hawkins, “and then we’ll adjust from there. DBs, know where #1 and # 7 are at all times. We have got to stop the sprint out. We need pressure up front. Don’t give them time to run.

“Last night at the JV game, the Riverside coaches were asking about Clinton. That’s the only thing they were interested in. Not Union. They think they can beat us.

We have not met expectations. We are not playing to potential. Some of you don’t know how to play through pain. There is NO reason why you should not be playing at a higher level. I KNOW you can do it. But you have to raise YOUR expectations. I have higher expectations for myself. I want each of you to have a great life but you need to raise your expectations on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.”

Minutes away
“The wind is swirling,” began Coach Bobo. “Get under the ball. Expect anything early. They could try an onside kick early. Let’s set the tone on the kickoff. This game represents one more step.”

At the half
Though down at the half, the spirit of the Jackets was positive as they ran toward our end zone. “We have a half to change things,” began Coach Bobo. “The defense has gotta play. The offense has gotta play. I told you they were good. Are you going to crawl in a hole? You have a chance to win but you have to take it from them. Get your heads right.”

It’s over
“I am disappointed for you,” began Bobo. “You fought hard at times but not through four quarters. You didn’t believe us when we told you they were good. You played with more heart and intensity than you did last week. At 3:45 Monday we will find out if they took your heart. We can still get to where we want to be. Can we win Friday? Yes. I want to ask you, did they show you any formation that we didn’t prepare you for? No. Sometimes it comes from the gut, not from just talent. This game tonight has no meaning for next week. We are going to put the best 11 on the field next week and I hope you come wanting to be one of them.”

Tackles and touchdowns
True to Bobo’s words, a lot of new faces appeared as starters during practice this week…One catching a lot of positive attention is Devon Thompson who volunteered to try out for fullback…On the board before the devotional: “When was the last time Union lost on Homecoming?”… Union has a playoff record unmatched by few schools at any level in the state -17 consecutive appearances … The Jackets will have to buckle their chinstraps and show a game-long level of intensity they have not shown this season to keep from being the team which broke the streak.

The journey continues. Blue Ridge. Away. The real Jacket fans will be there.

© Paul L Davis, 10 October, 2006


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