48 minutes for the rest of your life
By BOB VARMETTE
When you’re a senior high school football player, every game you play is one game closer to the last time you step on the field.
For the senior members of the Taylor Ducks (0-6, 0-1 District 14-4A Div. I) football team, the time is now. With Friday night’s home game against the Liberty Hill Panthers, the Ducks have four games left – and that’s all they’ll have if they don’t start winning.
That’s what has made its way into the thinking of the 20 senior Ducks.
“The younger kids have a tendency to be looking ahead,” said Taylor Coach Rusty Purser. “They’ve got another year, or two. But for the seniors, this is it – right now. They have four more games guaranteed. They want to try to get something going.”
Countless high school teams have signs posted on their locker room doors that remind the players, in one form or another, that a game is only 48 minutes, but that a lifetime of memories can come from those 48 minutes.
One day, every senior taps that sign for the last time.
For the Panther seniors, it’s very likely their season will last longer than that of the Ducks.
Liberty Hill, twice winners of Class 3A titles, expects to be playing longer, because of their tradition, because of their past success.
Compared to the Duck seniors, the Panthers face a less immediate end to their football careers. For Liberty Hill, the focus is now.
“I don’t think kids nowadays – and this is a broad statement, understand that – but I don’t think kids really bow up to it and say, ‘Gosh, I’ve only got four more games, and if we’re not successful that’s all I’m ever going to play in my life,’” said Liberty Hill Coach Jerry Vance.
Twenty, 30 years ago, it was different, Vance added, recalling early coaching stints in Artesia, N.M., and Dimmitt. Society has changed and is more focused on the now rather than a fuzzy future that seems incredibly distant.
The seniors of today, Vance said, typically are thinking about today, not tomorrow, or the legacy they leave behind for future players.
The lack of winning could be a catalyst for the urgency the Taylor seniors feel. That makes the Ducks even more of a potential threat to the Panthers on Friday.
The Ducks have been blown out in losses to Waco Robinson and Burnet. But they are better than their record, Purser said, and he feels the Ducks could at least be 2-4, possibly 3-3, and 1-0 in district.
“There are games where you go, ‘They’re not very good there,’ but then you go to another game and they look a little better,” Vance said. “I concur with Coach Purser – they (the Ducks) just don’t seem to gel at the right time and I hope they’ll wait one more week.”
Purser, on the other hand, is hoping the Ducks can finally put together a complete game. They have tools to do it in junior quarterback Terrell Reynolds, who is the second-leading passer in District 14-4A Division I with 850 yards and four touchdowns, and three of the district’s top eight receivers – Caleb Cooper, Miguel Morales and Jorge Camarillo.
The Ducks also have tailback Devin Taylor – one of those 20 seniors – who leads the team in rushing with 420 yards and four touchdowns on 60 carries. He had 108 yards rushing against Boerne, by far the best effort by a Taylor running back this season.
“He’s been big for us all year,” Purser said. “He’s in his third year starting on the varsity – a senior.”
He’s one of the Ducks seniors feeling a sense of urgency, Purser said. A home win by the Ducks would do a lot for their playoff hopes, and might instill a sense of urgency among Panther seniors.
The game certainly has their coach approaching it with caution.
“I’d much rather play a 6-0 team than an 0-6 team, just because that 0-6 team might put it all together at one time,” Vance said. “I think that you have to prepare doubly-hard, I think you have to put more effort into playing a team like Taylor simply because of how dangerous they are. You have to be prepared for everything. I don’t relish playing Taylor, not when they’re 0-6.”