The Cornwall Dragon Football Team.
I got to spend a little quality time with the 2020 Seniors on the team.
I know some probably think, eh that's not a big deal. But, you see it is...to me anyhow. They're a great group of boys & one day we're going to look back & want to remember that feeling.
It all goes so fast & when you do things that make history, not just in your town, but in the section in which you play... well it's pretty impressive & should be documented. I know when these boys are older, and in different places in their lives, they are going to look back & remember their brothers, those that they played a game they loved together.
I started this journey last year toward the end of the season. I made it to a few games, snagged some photos & then found myself on the sidelines of the State Championship game last year (thanks to a friend for getting me on the field), I wrote about that here... Road to Championship.
I knew I wanted to make a couple of games this year (boy did I not realize that these kids were going to suck me right in... hook, line & sinker). I showed up to the season opener against Monroe-Woodbury. A bigger district and our new head coach's previous school district. I hadn't watched the new coach, met him or even seen him. But, after watching Coach Holzapple the year prior, the new head coach was going to need to win me over (ok really I am not that important, but we all love our Holz)...
It was drizzling & I stood on the other side of the fence dying to get inside to take pictures. At halftime, I asked Jason Semo if he thought it'd be ok to jump in & grab some photos in the 2nd half. He said go for it! Game on boys! I was in my glory!
As I stood on the sidelines, a bad call came down, and Coach Baldock rushed the field & needed to be pulled back by his staff, literally! Have you seen the Rams "get back" coach? Yup, I probably laughed harder than I should have, but that was the moment he won me over. His passion, his drive, that FIRE... I get it. I love it!
I called West Texas home my entire childhood and beyond. Football was life. Friday Night Lights was a given. I can still see the stadiums, smell the air and feel the pounding excitement as the sun went down & the lights went up.
There's really nothing like it.
I walked in to spend a bit of time with the Seniors on a Sunday evening. When I walked upstairs where they were gathered playing video games, they had no idea why they had been called to be together that afternoon, I was greeted with a very happy yet confused "Mrs. Fern, HIIIIIII". Big smiles filled the room & when I told them I was there to kick their assess in video games the room erupted. I wasn't really there to play video games but to do a little photoshoot & video snippets.
|Horrible quality as I didn't have my flash, but those faces!
I don't think it was until then that I truly realized what I was doing on the sidelines meant this much to the boys. I felt it through my entire heart the love, appreciation & respect they have for me. Don't get me wrong, week after week, they acknowledged me. But, the level I felt it.. the bar was raised significantly.
The journey I walked alongside you through this season will forever be etched in my cherished memories.
You all have worked hard, beyond what any single person could understand besides you & the coaches.
You have all had to learn to overcome some pretty big obstacles. Some that created crazy emotions, some fear, some anger, some the public know about, some only you & your coaches know about. And, you rose above and did it all with grace & dignity. You have a story that goes beyond the football field.
I recall the Pine Bush game. I had someone tell me that this was going to be one of your toughest games right before I got to the game. For a split second, my heart raced & my stomach knotted up.
I have a keen sense, some call it a sixth sense. It's a weird feeling I get. It's not a nervous feeling, it's a feeling of doom. I can feel it in my mind, heart, and soul. I felt it but in a completely different way this night. And, then your boy Aidan.. it was strange. I stood at the end zone and couldn't even take a picture, I was frozen in place. All I saw was him take a left-handed throw & I knew that feeling I had, where it was coming from.
As soon as he left the field, and time ticked away on the clock, the feeling subsided. I was sad, couldn't leave my spot & couldn't even think of walking down to where he was sitting. But, that feeling was gone.
You prevailed, walked away as winners.. with a new quarterback on the field. You now not only lost the best quarterback in the state, but you also just lost one of the best & a top receiver.
I was asked during the week by an individual if I'd continue to go to the games to take pictures. My question back "why wouldn't I"? Doubt overcame some, said our season was over. My response.. HARDLY! Have you seen these boys? Have you watched them play?
There's no I in TEAM. They are a team, a band of brothers, and while it may have rocked some, their ROCK just became more solid. It is at times when you are faced with the biggest adversity that you make a choice. You either rise up and take the challenge head-on or you lay down & become defeated before the chapter even closes.
Each game, I would put on my warm clothing, layered up like no one's business. Double toe warmers, hand warmers in the gloves, leggings under the ski pants, THREE layers of shirts and my big coat. I looked like the female version of the Pillsbury doughboy! But, proudly! I wore a pink wristband and a particular lined shirt under a sweatshirt every single game. It was the warmest shirt ever. Traditions are not to be broken when you are heading to the State Championship game, even when it's being played inside. Let's just say, I was dying in the Dome. I contemplated going to the bathroom at halftime & removing it & just wearing the light sweatshirt I had on, but that wasn't even an option! Just ask Joey Parker...
It takes so much more than just jumping on the bus for the long trip to Syracuse to play at the Carrier Dome. You are up early to get the high school..
load your equipment
take team photos...
....board the bus and
...wait to have your breakfast brought to you by the football moms
And, then drive 2 plus hours to warm up in the field house at SUNY Cortlandt, grab your lunch from the team moms, and board the bus for your final destination.
How were you all feeling? Nervous, tired, overwhelmed, happy, sad that this would be the last time you put on your Cornwall Dragons jersey some for a season, some forever...
I followed along your journey that day. I took it all in. It all happens so fast & I wanted to make sure you remembered your trip.
My oldest daughter, Katie, was traveling with me. Let me preface this.. I would never check out any of the upcoming postseason opponents, even as hard as it was to just not. Although heading into the week, Paul Marrero, gave an update on your opponent, Carthage. I kicked myself for reading it. And, then I opened up Maxpreps and went to watch videos of them. I stopped myself...traditions are not made to be broken. As we were leaving the Cortlandt field house, Katie looks at me & says she's nervous. WHAT!?! Why? She said you know this team we're playing is really good. Umm yes & so are we! She said "no mom, like they are really good", me "how do you know that? Who told you that?". She says "I watched their films", WHAT THE EVER LOVING... I almost kicked her out of my car, but that would be a long, cold walk back home or to the Dome. She then proceeded to tell me about... SHHHHHHHHHHHH, lalala, shush it child! I have traditions. But, I am obviously teaching her right & looks like this girl & I have recreated that bond that my dad & I have shared over football. She accompanied me no matter how cold, windy or rainy it was to your games and loved cheering you on!
I didn't see you again until I met you on the field of the Carrier Dome. As Alfieri said, the greatest place in NY to play the game. The final destination...
What would the outcome be? Could you feel it in your heart as it pumped?
For the veterans from the year prior, did it feel the same? Or did this year bring new meaning?
I watched as you stood in the tunnel waiting to take the field. My heart pounded for you. I wanted this so much for you.
There was unchartered territory that you were embarking on, you were on the other end of the scoreboard than you've been all year.
Right before halftime, I remember standing on the sidelines & saying to myself "come on boys we need a big play here, a game-changer", and just like that your #99 Sophomore Orlando Carthens interception.
Even though you walked into the locker room at halftime still on that unfamiliar ground, that sense I felt was never doom. I never felt defeat. I BELIEVED & as did all of your fans.. They continued to cheer and never lost their passion.
You walked out onto that field in the 3rd quarter with fire in your eyes, your heart set on walking away as back to back champions. I could feel it.
That second half was epic. Both teams battled, you scored first, they answered but with a missed extra point. And, then you did what you've done all year long. Faced with a big challenge, you met it head-on and conquered.
A crucial blocked 52-yard field goal by the blocked kick king, Noah Chaudhry with Bryce Brown making an incredible grab & RUNNNNNN.
As Louie took his final knee, my heart pounded. I could feel every ounce of emotion coming from him. I could see him sink as he cradled the football and Alfieri reaching over to touch his shoulder.
A 12-0 season, your return to the Dome brought you a crown!
The moment you finished high fiving the other team, Alfieri ran over for a picture opportunity, the classic relationship we had, I'll love & cherish that forever!
I stuck my hand out for a high five & instead was engulfed in a hug, and then from Louie and others continued to follow behind.
I teared up & quickly I was overcome with a lot of emotions. We have a bond! I'm going to miss hearing "Mrs. Fern will you take a picture", or "Hi Mrs. Fern" from each of your voices.
To be apart of what you have accomplished will resonate in me for a lifetime. You've taught me some valuable lessons you probably didn't even know.
You taught me to follow my dreams. You taught me to never give up. You taught me to believe in myself. You taught me that despite being down when you want it bad enough to fight for it, and to dig deep it is doable. You also taught me that kindness matters, and you never know whose life you might touch. For you to know... YOU all touched my life this season! You embody what every football player should, a winning class act!
Thank you to Jason Semo for asking me after the Monroe game if taking pictures on the sidelines is something I'd like to do. Thank you, Mr. Kroemer, for saying yes and guiding me through the postseason protocol for being on the field. A BIG thank you goes out to the coaches for allowing me to be on the sidelines to capture the journey. Thank you to the parents for the kind words throughout the season, and teaching them to be kind, respectful and appreciative.
Thank you to the Cornwall Dragon Football team for bringing me on this incredible journey with you. You, unbeknownst to you, brought me back to my roots. The roots that my father instilled in me around the age of 2, those football roots run deep! I hope I provided time to stand still for you. I hope that in years to come you look back at the memories and know how special this time was.
With much love to you all, I will forever & always love you all!
~ Mrs. Fern