“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Growing up an ardent football player and fan in southern Wisconsin, I vividly recall watching Green Bay Packer games on our 13-inch black and white television set (with makeshift rabbit ears) on snowy Sunday afternoons.
There were times during games when I turned the sound down and made an awkward attempt at doing play-by-play. It was crudely amateurish, but it was fun and gave me something to dream about learning at some point in the future.
Fast forward to the late summer of 2007, the year KTEA’s Papa Jim was coaxed into providing radio coverage of all Bronco football games. This reporter got an opportunity to do play-by-play for high school football.
Through these seven seasons I have witnessed some very good Coast Union teams and some that struggled mightily. However, I have never followed a team as dynamic, as talented, as tough and as well-coached as the 2013 Broncos, whose 11-2 record will not likely be repeated any time soon.
Two of the fine players from this year’s team agreed to meet and talk about their high school careers — and about the stunning, 74-22 whipping they endured in the championship game Saturday, Nov. 30, against Faith Baptist in Canoga Park.
The late afternoon sun blazed down on the two productive senior football players, linebacker and fullback Chuy Nunez and receiver Emmany Godinez. Etched into their faces was the deep disappointment they were dealing with. Given that they were but two days removed from the most stinging defeat of their careers, they showed class by openly discussing their feelings.
For Chuy, who played just one sport all four years, the loss on Saturday was “a really crushing experience for me. It was terrible. I was really bummed.”
“I was dropping passes that I never drop,” Emmany recounted, trying to explain how things went so terribly wrong. One of the textbook trajectory aerials thrown by Angel Avina landed perfectly in Emmany’s outstretched arms — but was dropped. “I was trying to think of what I was doing wrong, and thought maybe it was not having enough sleep.”
Both players were up late the night before, filling out applications to universities they hope to attend. “It was really frustrating knowing I was not playing my best game,” Emmany continued.
Chuy, playing fullback, remembered seeing his front line get into position. “I would think to myself that if everyone blocked perfectly we would run a good play. When I blocked, then turned around, Lane (Sutherland) was getting tackled in the backfield. It was really hard to determine why we couldn’t make it work.
“They played their best game and we played our worst game, to be honest,” Chuy asserted. “They were getting into our backfield and our receivers were dropping the ball,” Emmany said, adding, “We’ve had this running through our minds since the game was over. We just played our worst game.”
When he got home, Emmany watched an archived version of the entire game on the Fox Sports West website. “It was painful, but I watched the entire game.
“It’s kind of like you have a four-year dream and it blows up in the last hour,” Emmany explained.
Asked about the response from classmates upon returning to school Monday, Dec. 2, Chuy heard greetings like, “‘Well at least you guys made it this far.’”
“You really don’t want to hear that,” Emmany added. “Yes, we had a great season and resurrected this program, but you know what? We’ve been looking at that banner in the gym (CIF Football Championship, 1979) since our freshman year … and ….”
Most students on campus likely didn’t understand “how big this actually was to us,” Emmany offered. “We had the team to do it.” Chuy added, “We were really coming together, but at the very last game to have it all … all the work we worked for … just ….”
Although, for this reporter, viewing football has transitioned from that little B&W television set to a wide-screen, high-definition TV — and into exciting high school action on a real gridiron — football is still about passing, blocking, running, tackling, winning and losing.
And while the good teams — like the 2013 Broncos — win most of their games and wear smiles on the bus ride home — the devastating losses are an inevitable part of the experience as well. Just ask Chuy and Emmany, and their Coast Union teammates.