September 10, 2013 at 11:38 AM
How high-school football and a Friday night changed my life
By Tyler Lobe
Tyler Lobe is a 2004 graduate of Auburn Riverside High School and is now sports-information director at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif. Lobe played only his senior season of football, and his team began the season with a 33-game losing streak. After a loss to Kentwood made it 34 in a row, Auburn Riverside played a road game at sixth-ranked Kentridge. Lobe’s story begins with that game in 2003.
From the moment it left the long snapper’s hand, it seemed like an eternity before the ball got to me — maybe that’s because it never left the ground.
After the high-school regulation-sized pigskin rolled 7 yards on the turf of French Field, I quickly reached over to grab the fumbled football. In one split-second movement, I placed the ball upright on the small black tee, spun the laces toward the end zone and waited for the kicker’s boot.
I was off-balance and falling backwards, but I saw the football disappear. I snapped my head to the right, hoping that I would see it flying through the yellow goal posts 20 yards away. Instead, all I could see were bodies piling on top of me. Under that dogpile, I had just one thought: “Did we convert the extra point?”
The 10 other good guys on the field and the rest of our sideline erupted in celebration as if we had just won the Super Bowl. Our fans, consisting of friends, families and fellow classmates, roared with excitement. The adrenaline pumping through my body enabled me to escape the pile and join my teammates in the utter jubilation.
No, we didn’t win the game at that moment. No, it wasn’t the Super Bowl. We still had 1:48 to play in just our second game of the season.
But it was, and still is to this day, the best moment that I’ve ever experienced in sports. It was just one of many moments during that fall of 2003 that I look back on and will cherish every day of my life.
I sat down at the Sunbreak Café in downtown Auburn the next morning. I opened the sports section of the newspaper.
“Misery ends for Ravens,” read the headline.
The extra point that we converted put our team ahead, 14-13, against one of the best teams in the league. When we held the Kentridge Chargers from scoring again and the clock ran out, every Auburn Riverside fan and player rushed to join a frenzied, on-field party that lasted several minutes.
We did the unthinkable. After suffering through 33 straight losses, dating back four seasons, our high school football team won a football game. We were the doormat of the league for years, but for that one Friday night under the lights, we felt like champions. We went on to win only a couple more games that season, but we felt as if we had accomplished a lot. We did something no other ARHS football team had done in the four previous seasons .
I was never the biggest guy in my class. As a senior, I still was definitely not the biggest guy in my high school, which had over 2,000 students in it. I had never played football before, other than the pickup games my neighbors and I would play every weekend. I watched football on television and had a relative understanding of the rules and the strategy involved. I knew I wanted to play competitively on an organized team, but I knew I wasn’t going to have the skill and commitment it takes to be part of a football team. Still, I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t suck it up and play at least one season. All of my friends played, it gave me something to do after school. But most of all, it gave me the opportunity to wear a football jersey while walking the school’s hallways on game day.
I guess it was the cool thing to do. Actually, I know it was because I felt cool doing it.
I participated in spring drills as a junior. I got to know the coaches, I got to know the plays, I got to know football strategy and I got to hang out with the guys. I went to summer football camp on the other side of the state and endured two-a-days in the heat of August. There were days I absolutely hated it and there were days when, well, I absolutely hated it.
It was a reality check. I wasn’t the best athlete out there. I pushed myself, though, because I knew that I would look back on this time in high school with a sense of pride, knowing that I accomplished something important.
Not only did I push myself, but everyone else pushed me, too. My coaches and teammates were on my ass. I thought they were picking on me. Later, I realized that they were just trying to make me better while helping them to be better?
Because I wasn’t the best at any of the positions on the field, I knew I had to do something to see playing time. I volunteered to tryout as the team’s kick holder, something usually reserved for backup quarterbacks. Apparently, I excelled at it. Coach Andrew Sage named me the starting holder and listed me that way on the team’s roster.
I was just happy to contribute. Every game, I would carry around that black tee; it was my baby. I kept it in hand, just in case I needed to run out to the field on a whim to hold for a field goal or extra point. God forbid I lose that thing and risk losing my only starting position. But no matter how much I babied that tee, our three field-goal kickers could never kick a field goa. Somehow we got the job done against Kentridge.
It’s years later, but it’s football season again. I still remember those fall days as a senior in high school. It was one of the best times of my life being a part of that football team and being with those guys.
I received a Facebook message from a friend a few years ago with an inspirational music video from Kenny Chesney in it. The opening lyrics read:
“When I feel that chill, smell that fresh cut grass,
I’m back in my helmet, cleats and shoulder pads,
Standing in the huddle listening to the call,
Fans going crazy for the boys of fall,
They didn’t let just anybody in that club,
Took every ounce of heart and sweat and blood,
To get to wear those game day jerseys down the hall,
Kings of the school man, we’re the boys of fall.”
If I had never given myself the chance to play football for the Ravens, I would never be able to tell my future children that I was named the team’s Special Teams Co-Player of the Week, just for holding the football on that Friday evening in September of 2003 French Field in Kent.
I helped the Ravens beat the Chargers, ending Auburn Riverside High School’s football misery.
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