Full Circle – Like Father Like Son

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - Like Father Like Son
Rest in peace old friend. Sam Quick #89

Youth sports.

For those who’ve lived it, we know it goes deeper than a love for the game.

The experience offers life lessons and enduring memories.

Like Father Like Son

The Backstory

For those who’ve experienced them, memories of high school athletics are often among the best ones we can conjure from the past. This has certainly been true for me as the years continue to pile up behind me.

On the field or on the court, remembering victories and defeats, sweat and pain, camaraderie and friendship, coachable moments, personal injury and triumph, there remains a clarity of life purpose that exists within a short window of time. A place where young people join forces for a common goal, to compete and win. Names like Brian, Sam, Joe, Doug, Curtis, Keith, Craig, and so many more remain forever-etched into my memory.

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Stock photo from Pixabay.

For the love of the game, I started in Odessa, Missouri Little League Football in the 4th grade.

That was 1978 for me, and I can recall clearly wearing the heavy helmet and pads, blundering along with my little legs just trying to run a straight line and learn the basics of blocking and tackling.

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My body grew stronger and skills were honed with each passing year. By the time I was a High School Sophomore in 1983, I was a member of the Odessa Bulldogs and a starter for the Junior Varsity team. Over the next two seasons, I blossomed into a strong competitor and a Varsity team starter, earning All-Conference and All-District recognition in my Senior Year and getting multiple looks from various college programs across the region.

Like Father Like Son

Despite the personal accolades, I am most proud of what our team accomplished together during that 1985 season. We made history for our little town, earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time ever. It was also an incredibly proud moment for us when we handed a 6-0 shut-out to our arch rivals, the Oak Grove Panthers. Our first win over the Panthers in seven straight seasons.

We finished 7-3 in regular season play that year, losing the Missouri River Valley West Conference title to Kearney (the other Bulldogs). Very much like a dogfight, Odessa vs. Kearney was dominated by two very strong defensive teams. It came down to a long-shot touchdown late in the fourth quarter. I can still see it in my mind, a beautifully thrown deep ball to a corner post route to a receiver who was open by only a few inches. The contest finished 13-19. Despite the hard and disappointing loss, we knew we still had a shot at the post-season.

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Other memorable games from the 1985 season include …

Game 6 – Carrollton Trojans

What I remember most about this game was that Odessa was being portrayed as the underdogs. Carrollton was having an incredible year, coming into this game undefeated, 5-0. No one gave us a chance. We took exception to that and vowed to show them. In a 21-14 win, we reset the tone about who the contenders were in the MRVC. Unfortunately, I suffered an injury in that game, breaking a bone in my left hand.

Game 7 – Lexington Minutemen

Every time we faced-off against this team, the level of game play seemed to increase dramatically. We hit harder, ran faster, and pursued more fiercely. Despite being arch rivals with Oak Grove, it was always the Lexington Minutemen who delivered the toughest contest of the season. This one did not disappoint. These were the defending 3A State Champions, winning it all in 1984. Every Bulldog remembered the sting from the previous year, when the Minutemen punished us with a devastating beat down, 54-0, on our home-field. We wanted some payback this night. I played my heart out with the broken hand, wrapped-up like a club and gritting my teeth through 3 quarters of intense pain, until I could do no more. Battered and beaten, we put up a good fight but lost 14-37. That felt like an even harder loss than the year before.

The busted hand kept me on the sideline for the next 3 games, including my Senior Homecoming. I will be forever-amazed at how my replacement, Elmer Becker, stepped-up in my absence. This guy went full-on beast mode, delivering quarterback sacks, tackles for loss, fumble recoveries, and even scoring two defensive touchdowns. Exceptional performance my friend!

The final game of the regular season schedule was a win-or-go-home scenario. Without a victory we would surely lose our playoff bid. My teammates earned a hard-fought 15-12 win against a tough Warrensburg Tigers team. I was more than ready to suit-up again for some playoff football! Thank you, guys!

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Our divisional playoff game was against a hardened Kansas City Metro team, St. Pius X. This was a classic match-up between small town America and the inner city. I can still hear their taunts in my mind as we entered their stadium, telling us to go back to the farm. We didn’t care. There was no intimidation, just a fire in our hearts for a gridiron battle.

Despite being handed a shut-out loss, 21-0, we made a strong defensive stand, showing the St. Pius crowd and our own hometown supporters why we had earned the right to be there that night. I will never forget the mix of emotions in the locker room as we packed-up for the long ride home. Not only was the loss a hard pill to swallow, it was the reality of the end of things. For the seniors, we knew this was likely the last time we would ever play the game.

Like Father Like Son

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The Full Circle Moment

Fast forward to 2006 and the next generation of Missouri High School Athletics. I was living near the small town of Lone Jack, Missouri at that time, within the boundaries of the Holden School District. My son, Scott, was a Holden Eagle that year and had followed a similar path as I had. Playing for a Kansas youth league he developed a love for the game, growing in strength and skill until earning a starting spot with Holden’s Varsity team.

More than just a full-circle moment, it felt like déjà vu throughout his high school career. Holden is a team I had faced many times when I played, so every time I sat in the stands to watch Scott play it felt like a nostalgic throwback to my own youth.

We had fun poking at each other, talking smack about how his 2006 Eagles could beat my 1985 Bulldogs. Scott’s senior year was slightly better, finishing the regular season 8-2 and a Show Me West Conference title. Like Father Like Son, the Eagles lost in the first round of the playoffs that year.

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I asked Scott to share a few of the most memorable moments from his senior season.

Game 3 – California Pintos

This was a break-out game for Scott with his best defensive performance to-date. He sacked the QB, applying pressures and hurries multiple times, made several solo tackles and had a fumble recovery. The Eagles won 28-22.

Game 7 – Lone Jack Mules

Another stellar defensive performance for Scott, he ran the field like a madman disrupting nearly every play from scrimmage, handing his conference rival a convincing defeat, 27-14.

Game 8 – Hogan Prep Rams

In spite of the shut-out defeat against this hardened inner-city KC Metro team, Scott’s defensive monster appeared once again, forcing multiple fumbles and tackles for a loss. What made the game unforgettable was the weather. It rained so hard throughout the entire game that there was standing water nearly a foot deep in some parts of the field. Scott remembers the many pile-up tackles where his face was pressed down into the water. Gasping for breath there were a few times Scott thought he might actually drown!

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Photo courtesy of USA Today.

I remember those moments very well as a proud-dad spectator.

For me personally, it was Game 6 that will be forever-etched into my memory, because it was against my arch nemesis, St. Pius X! The last team I had ever played that knocked my 1985 Bulldogs out of the playoffs.

A Full Circle Moment 21 years in the making.

Living vicariously through my son, big-eyed dreams of Bulldog revenge danced in my head! Much like the 1985 contest, the first half was a hard-fought defensive battle. But St. Pius fared better in the second half and pulled away for a convincing win that night, 49-26.

It is almost indescribable, the strange continuity of emotion in a scenario like that. A Father-and-Son shared experience separated by 21 years, losing to a common foe on the field.

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The Meaning

I don’t recall any Aha! Moments or great revelations from that experience, but I do believe it was a key Father-Son bonding moment. Scott and I have many of those, priceless and perfect, but this one returns to my mind often.

I don’t know why it resonates with me so deeply, but maybe it has something to do with those feelings from my own youth. That clarity of life purpose I once had for the game, surrounded by friends and teammates, united in competition and the struggle to win. Part of me feels like I connected in some small way with Scott, sharing the defeat in a way only true teammates can.

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Something stirs in my soul every time I experience Friday Night Lights. The sights and sounds invoke a primal instinct.

The horn blast of the marching band, the thundering drum beat, the energetic cheerleaders in their colorful outfits, the sunset colors and warm glow of the lights, the roar of the crowd as a big play unfolds, and the impact of bodies on the field as competitors meet in battle.

For young athletes who’ve lived it, they can testify that youth sports are much more than the game. It teaches us about teamwork, overcoming adversity, determination, discipline, and commitment. The experience reveals something deeper within ourselves. A will to win, the spirit of competition. I will forever cherish my memories of the glory days and wouldn’t trade them for anything.

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There are many individuals from my Bulldog days who were an inspiration to me. I want to name three of them.

  1. Coach Mark Thomas: Sir, you brought to us a whole new mindset about the fierceness of competition and a will to win. But you were also very personable and approachable. You struck me as a man who genuinely cared about the guys on your team, on a level that extended beyond the field. It was more than football for you, wasn’t it? Thank you for that.
  2. Brian Jones: A friend for the ages. Since grade school we were buds, doing just about everything together. I recently told you in person how much your friendship really meant to me. A troubled kid with very little guidance, you were far more than just a friend and teammate. You inspired me to be more. Thank you old friend.
  3. Andy Grubb: You may have been the smallest, most under-skilled player on the team, but you had a spirit that shined brighter, and a heart that beat stronger than all of us. You always showed-up, you never complained, you worked as hard as any of us in practice and were always ready to do your part. What an inspiration! Memories of you will always put a big smile on my face. Rudy Ruettiger has nothing on you my friend. Thank you for being the heart of our team.

Deuteronomy 32:7

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Steve Coryell