Rogers kept it close throughout the night, but time ran out on the Wildcats’ final drive with the game ending 30-28. Throughout the past two hours, the sideline groaned with every negative play. They stood silent as Edwards scored quick touchdowns. Rogers’ sideline hollered and was all smiles just moments before the Edwards scored the game-winning touchdown.
Now, the team isn’t running around, energized and ready to play. After the clock ticks down to zero in the fourth quarter, Rogers’ players realize the 2012 season won’t have a fairy tale ending.
They don’t try and act tough and pretend to be professional football players. Disappointment, something the players haven’t experienced all season, finally sets in.
The team’s emotional leader, Steffan Mesidor, seems especially distraught.
Mesidor doesn’t look up. The tears on his face are fresh as he watches the Edwards football players get their Play Ball! championship trophy. More tears fall. Mesidor stands at 5-feet-11-inches and is best known for bursting through an opponents’ offensive line before throwing their quarterback into the dirt. His strong performance on defense wasn’t enough to bring the crown to Hyde Park. The eighth grader is now realizing that his middle school career is over. Reality sets in.
As he’s handed his second-place medal, he looks up for a moment. Then his head drops again. His face scrunches up, corralling the tears on his face, slowing down the trickle on his cheeks.
After being consoled by coaches and talking to some teammates, the tears stop falling. Mesidor, a veteran of the Rogers’ four-year-old football team now has four years of football to play in high school. Shavis comes over and hugs Mesidor. They both look defeated. Shavis is tearing up, too. “I saw them grow up before my eyes,” says Shavis.
Tyrese Myers normally chats with teammates and jokes around after games. On this night, Myers is drained. His slouched shoulders and slow paced walk give off a silent, cold demeanor. He has a cold glare on his face of frustration and disgust rolled into one. The vibe given off after losing a back-and-forth championship game in the last 90 seconds, 30-28, is not one that the parents of these players have experienced around this team over the past two-and-a-half months. It seems unnatural. This team is never silent after a game. For the first time this year, the Wildcats have experienced defeat.
Mesidor takes off his pads and sets his Rogers Wildcats jersey atop the pile left on the field for the last time. He glances over at some of the coaches before his dad comes up behind him.
His dad gives him a bear hug and, almost for a split-second, Mesidor seems to smile. It’s quickly erased off his face, though, as he looks down at the jerseys.
Mesidor has meant the world to this team since early September when tryouts started. His hopes and aspirations of winning a title on his third try seemed distant at first. But his confidence grew throughout the season, and on the day of the championship there was a good chance he would be the one grasping the trophy with his worn out hands.
Mesidor walked off the field about 20 minutes after the game ended. Dakari Cox, who scored four touchdowns today, walked with him.
The two talk and even laugh as they slowly move away. Their middle school careers ended in heartbreak, but the following Tuesday would prove to be a proud day for all the players.
Shavis was at the lunch block when he witnessed an unprecedented event.
“When Steffan [Mesidor] and all those kids came into the cafeteria, the kids, they clapped for them,” Shavis said. “The students clapped for them. That was huge. That almost got me in tears. They almost got me with that. The kids clapped for the football team.
“It’s something hard to explain, but it’s real cool to see when you’re in the hallway. Football is it.”
It took one football player the entire season to find his strength. But in Abdilahi’s case, the opportunity he took changed his attitude about football. His academic career can still change as well.
He had to wait four agonizing days after the Play Ball! championship game to find out what exactly occurred in the prior two weeks, though.
The next step
On the second to last play of the Play Ball! championship, quarterback Dakari Cox threw a deep pass to Abdilahi down the left sideline. Abdilahi was in one-on-one coverage and he just needed to come down with the pass—repeating his heroics from the previous week’s semifinal victory at Harvard—to land Rogers a come-from-behind win.Continued...