From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / December 13, 2000

One of the key plays in the Class 2A state championship game Friday night was a 68-yard pass from Ouachita Christian’s Cam Rowan to Dennis Burke early in the fourth quarter. The play set up a one-yard touchdown run byRowan, helping the Eagles to a 28-14 victory.

But what was overlooked on the play was Riverside’s Bradley Hodges racing downfield and diving to trip up Burke at the one. It took Ouachita Christiantwo plays to score the touchdown. Had the Rebels held at that point or if theEagles had turned the ball over, who knows what would have happened.

How many times have we seen an NFL player give up on a play such as that one? What Hodges did was give his team a chance, a chance that could have turned the whole game around. That play exemplifies what championshipgames and high school sports are all about.

There are obvious losers this week who are posting messages on the internet about Riverside not being able to win the big one. That is an insult not only toRiverside but to every team the Rebels have played this year. It is to demeanan exceptional effort by Ouachita Christian Friday night. For the majority ofthe players who play high school football, every Friday night is a big game.

The Rebels won 14 of those big games this year.

Riverside has made three trips to the Superdome for the state championship game in the past seven years. A lot of teams in the state would love to havethat record. The Rebels were only 18 minutes, 58 seconds away from achampionship Friday night. Nearly every team in the state would have doneanything to have been in that position.

Nobody who plays high school football, or any high school sport for that matter, is a loser. One just has to attend just one practice to see what theseplayers have to go through just to play on Friday nights.

Try to imagine for a moment practicing for hours in the heat of August. Orgetting up hours before school begins to lift weights. Or sacrificing hours anddays during the summer trying to become a better player. Any player whocan stick through that is a winner.

Only five teams left the Superdome this week carrying the gold state championship trophy. But as the final pages are being written on the 2000prep season, there are so many more winners.

You are a winner if you are an East St. John team that has had to go throughthe ultimate adversity to make it to the playoffs. You are a winner if you aHahnville squad that persevered through a 1-8 season two years ago to win a district championship this year. You are a winner if you a Destrehan teamthat went through the pressure of being a four-time district champion to push a perennial state title contender to the very end.

You are a winner if you are West St. John, St. James or Lutcher and have toovercome injuries and the loss of a large number of seniors to continue winning traditions. You are a winner if you are a St. Charles Catholic teamwho gives 100 percent 100 percent of the time even when people do not give you a chance.

And you are a winner if you are a Riverside team who stepped up to meet the challenge for 14 straight weeks. Who gave an outstanding Ouachita Christian team everything it could handle to the last seconds of the season.

So, players from all these teams, keep your heads raised high. You do notneed to raise a gold trophy above your heads to be a champion in life.

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