Sunday, November 18, 2007
Good coaching? Sure, but Augusta's Coach Barrett is no slouch.
Speed? I'd say so, but it wasn't obvious, was it?
Good discipline and execution? Yes. At least I was conscience of that a couple times—once while running back Matt Icopini waited patiently for a trap to develop on the sparsely populated, six-man line of scrimmage. It payed off as he raced 54 yards for the touchdown.
Tough? Oh yes. They have to be, but who isn't when they make it to the title game?
Pirate magic? Sure, it makes as much sense as anything.
And here's the kicker... They won the Montana Class C six-man title with only one senior on their 13-man roster and never lost a game all year.
At five-foot, seven-inches (at best), I'm a believer in that old expression "dynamite comes in small packages." But, when Hysham started walking down Main Street on their way to the gridiron, I was thinking to myself, "Is that it? Are there some other players coming out later... like, the varsity?"
In the game program, Hysham's #20, Tait Hollowell was listed at 185 pounds—soaking wet maybe. Programs don't lie, do they?
I'd seen Augusta at North Star several weeks earlier and I was impressed by their size and athleticism. However, they had lost to Highwood during the regular season, but Highwood lost to Hysham twice—once at home and another time at Hysham in the playoffs. So, when the Pirates appeared, I assumed that the Elks must have had a really bad day with Highwood or some key players didn't make the game that day.
As Augusta waited to receive the opening kick-off, I watched the Pirates' small-framed, kick-off team run out on the field as I prepared myself for the Augusta return man to take it back all the way. It didn't happen and what was even more surprising, it never happened.
The entire game was a reminder of last year's eight-man title game at Centerville. When the Miners came out on the field and I saw their great numbers, but relatively small size, I calculated Wibaux was going to win by four touchdowns... easy. I was wrong then, and wrong again this time at Hysham.
But, you know, I don't mind being wrong. It's good for the soul as long as one is willing to admit it.
Not only was the Hysham-Augusta match-up a great small town high school football game, it was also a great day for all the wonderful attributes of such settings—most of them people related.
First there was A'lona, one of the Hysham moms who assisted decorating the highway approaching the town. She has a daughter attending the high school, but you would have thought she had a son starting at quarterback too. I met up with her again at halftime when I heard the championship game shirt sales were going fast. I walked over to the table where she was working with only four bucks in my pocket. Strapped for cash and no ATM in sight, I promised her a CD of images from the game and my remaining dollar bills in exchange for a shirt. The CD is in the mail A'lona!
Than there was Paul and Frank, the two elder corn farmers at the Chuckwagon Café (open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.) that have probably never heard of the word "retirement." They weren't attending the game because they had a test plot just outside of town to work, but had plenty of time to chat with us over coffee and breakfast. When they walked in and found no available tables, they took up my offer to join Slim and I at our table for four.
During the game I became acutely aware regarding how many times the opposing team players helped their opponent up after a tackle. I know it's a common thing, but it seemed uncommonly prolific in the contest—text book good sportsmanship. Funny, I don't think I have an image anywhere in my work that includes this friendly scenario. And just like that, I have a new assignment for next season already.
The magic of small town high school football appeared to follow us to the big city of Billings. We decided to get a cup of coffee at the City Brew coffee house before driving the last darkened, 90 minutes of our trip home that is illuminated only by headlights with the exception of a few streetlights when driving through Fromberg and Bridger. Tired from our big day in Hysham, an elderly man named Robert walked over to our table and initiated a conversation about hair styles for older men that led to other topics. As it turned out, Robert was a retired history professor who earned a doctorate from Columbia University a long time ago and flew as a B-24 Liberator bombardier during the late stages of World War II. As colourful as his stories were given his age of 82 years, he was excited to hear of our day at Hysham and told us how he would love to see a six-man football game someday. We exchanged contact information and promised to include him in a six-man game next season.
It was a day of magic.