I have grown another year older.
I know this because another high school football season has come and gone.
Since I was a junior in high school, I have always marked the passage of time based on high school football seasons. I have always known where I was in my life based upon what type of season the Trojans were having. Every single milestone in my life has been wrapped around the Troy High School football team’s season.
My senior year in high school? That would be 1991, when the Trojans went 8-2, suffering devastating back-to-back losses to Northmont and Piqua.
My freshman year in college? That would be 1992, the year Troy played Piqua in front of 12,000 people at Troy Memorial Stadium, then turned around a few weeks later and played the Indians again in the Division I regional finals.
The year I graduated college? I graduated in 1996 — the magical 100th year of Troy High School football, when the Trojans finished atop the Division I Associated Press poll.
The year I met my wife? How could I possibly forget that magical year in 1998 when Ryan Brewer set the state rushing record and won Mr. Football Ohio honors? (Note: My wife absolutely loves it when I refer to 1998 as “Ryan Brewer’s senior year … and the year we met.”)
We would be married three years later in 2001 — the summer after Troy made the playoffs in 2000.
We had our first child Sophia in 2004 — the year Troy returned to the playoffs after a four-year absence.
Our second child Maximilian was born in 2007 — the year Troy beat Piqua 36-35 in the greatest high school football game I have ever seen played.
All of which leads me to this — with each passing football season, there is a part of me that is saddened to see it go. There’s always a feeling of anticipation and excitement that begins to build each August when two-a-days start. That’s when I kiss my wife and children goodbye and tell them, “I’ll see you again in November.”
My wife long ago accepted the fact she’ll forever be a football widow every fall. She understands how much covering high school football means to me and would never stand in the way of chasing those Friday night lights in August, September, October and November.
As I do get older, however, I am starting to wonder how many more high school football seasons I’m going to see. Lately I’ve started to notice the gray around my temples and the extra padding around my waistline. I’m not a young man anymore. A few (relatively minor) health issues along the way have certainly contributed to these feelings, as well. Whenever a season ends of late, I’ve found myself thinking, “I can’t wait for the next season — if I’m fortunate enough to be around for it.”
But I am fortunate in that, for me, hope does spring eternal. As a sports writer and a fan, there’s always a next season — even when the previous one ends. That’s not the case for most high school football players.
When Troy’s season came to an end in Cincinnati last Friday, I was down on the field to see Troy’s players huddle around coach Matt Burgbacher for one final time. I saw tears in many seniors’ eyes. With a few exceptions, football is over for the seniors. They will never again know the magic of slipping on that uniform on Friday nights. They’ll never again get the chance to laugh and joke around in the lockerroom before and after practices. They’ll never again feel that invincibility that can only come with running out onto the field with thousands of fans in the stands cheering for them.
That’s really the cruel trick high school football can play. It gives teenage boys the chance to be heroes — but it only lasts for a brief moment in time. While fans are left with the chance to look forward to what the next season may bring, the players themselves are left with little more than memories.
So I will spend some time mourning for the local high school football players’ whose seasons — and, in most cases, careers — have come to an end. But I can only do so for so long.
Because in a few short months, it will be August again, and a time to make a whole new set of memories.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong