After the Mead football team’s most recent lopsided defeat, head coach Martin Clark praised his players for their effort in the first season with seniors on the team.
And he had a very poignant message for the program’s inaugural senior class.
“When we start winning these games, we’ll look back on this season and we’ll thank you all,” Clark said.
Like any team, the Mavericks looked to their seniors for leadership. And the younger players will have an example of leadership they can emulate when they reach their seniors seasons.
But that wasn’t the case for the class of 2012. The first class at a fledgling school, they never had seniors to show them how to lead a team.
“It was tough for them because they were freshmen when they left the high schools that they left,” Clark said. “So, they didn’t have a lot of contact with those seniors. They didn’t practice with them, they were on the other side of the field at practice.
“They had to learn how to be seniors. That was the key. They had to learn how to learn how to behave, if that makes sense; how to behave, how to act, how to carry themselves and how to teach the young ones how to be what they’ve never been around before.”
It was a challenge, but the Mavericks seniors handled it beautifully. They showed as much grace and grit on the football field as any group of leaders.
And no one played harder than the seniors. Just ask Greg Rademacher, who played the entire season with a broken hand. Or Christian Carrillo, who had to make a dentist appointment after the season finale because he knocked one of his own teeth loose.
Even down big at the end of the season, the seniors never gave up. With no hope of beating Middle Park, Rademacher and Carrillo scored touchdowns in the last two minutes, set up by two big catches by fellow senior TJ Stanchfield.
The Mead seniors went out in a flourish of effort, showing the same grit they had all season.
“It’s been really hard. Being one of the captains you have to stand up above everyone else and really play your heart out,” Stanchfield said. “Everyone else does, but you have to go 150 percent every play.”
That type of effort led to a major improvement in the program and a physical presence the program lacked last season. Gone are the days of the Mavericks spotting opponents 40 points by halftime.
“It’s improvement.” Rademacher said. “It might not be a notable one to most teams, but even the coaches and the team knows we’ve improved this year.”
The Mavericks finished at a meager 2-8, but that’s the most wins in school history. They also got the program’s first shutout and first league win ever.
Building on the groundwork laid by the seniors, the Mavericks face a new challenge as they move up to Class 3A next year. He won’t be around, but Carrillo thinks the seniors have provided the young Mavericks with a character that allow them to succeed.
“I feel good,” Carrillo said. “I don’t even care what division they’re in next year, they’re going to fight their (butts) off until the end. That’s the mindset we’ve had.”
Brad Cochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.