October 5th, 2012 is a date that has been circled on many calendars since Coach accepted a job at Ranburne in July. To say that Woodland and Ranburne are bitter rivals would be an understatement. And, while it's one of ten regular season games this year, it's also not fair to say it was just another game.
Woodland has beaten The Bulldogs the last 8 times the teams have met. And, in truth, the games haven't even been competitive. Coach went into the week knowing that just getting some dogs in the fight, so to speak, would be a victory for them. Ranburne football is headed in the right direction. The coaches are working harder than ever and so are the players. But, they are still a long way from matching up with the perennial playoff team from Woodland, which happens to have one of it's better teams in 4 or 5 years. So, to put it mildly, the Dogs were a longshot this Friday night.
But, there's a reason you play the game. Just because something is improbable, doesn't make it impossible. And, if anyone could find the chinks in the Bobcat armor, it's my Coach.
It was an incredibly difficult week for Coach Bailey, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, it was an emotional game for him. He's had his heart broken by people he used to call "friend". He's sent so many unanswered "good luck" and "congratulations" texts this season. He's heard kids who he's done everything for say hurtful things. But, he still loves all of them. While some people in orange were busy running their mouths this week, Coach was dealing with situations far more important that football.
During the week, the Dogs' head coach spoke with the players, and maybe the coaches too, about adversity, about learning how to get back up when life knocks you down. Those players knew they were headed into a battle. And they came out ready to fight.
Coach read me the script for the first two series on Thursday night before the game. And I knew then that he was ready. But, I didn't know if the young Bulldog team had enough in them to pull off the miracle. Then, driving to to field on Friday, I just KNEW. I tried to tell myself it was foolish to think we had a chance. I knew I'd be so disappointed. But, I just had that feeling. We were going to win.
Coach often speaks about how when you're trying to turn a program around, you need one defining moment. A moment where something incredible happens, something you can build on. A turning point. The job of a coach is to get the kids ready so that when their moment presents itself, they're ready for it. Friday night, the Bulldogs were ready. I don't know how they did it. It was incredible.
It was a great night. I hugged Coach on the field after the huge win and said, "You could coach for 50 years and never get a bigger win." He said, "I know."
But while everyone was celebrating the huge win, he and I were talking about other things. Because, you see, the biggest game of your life isn't just one game on one incredible Friday night. It's every game, every day, every minute. Life is precious. And you better celebrate those victories, because you never know what life has waiting for you around the next corner.
I'm so proud for those Bulldogs. They played their hearts out. They didn't lie down. They came out and hit those Cats in the mouth all night long. And, we know they bleed purple, because we saw it all over the field Friday night.
For me, it isn't about "beating Woodland". It's about those kids and that community earning back some respect. But, for the record, we know what your sign said. Notice, we didn't have to have one. For us, winning is enough. We don't have to insult our opponent just to feel good about a win. The only sign we need stood at the end of the field.
It said 14-6 Ranburne.