Chants of “We are! John Paul!” rang out as the two teams shook hands after the game. The student section showed support for their team who had just suffered a 26-0 defeat at the hands of Bishop Ireton in the first round of the VISAA Division I playoffs. Senior team members found it hard to believe that after four short years, their high school football career had came to an abrupt conclusion.
The first and last offensive plays for the Wolves were microcosms of the entire contest. On their opening play from scrimmage, a false start penalty was called against them, one of a high number of penalties during the game. Then on their last play of the game, the Wolves could not find the end zone with less than a yard to go. As with several other opportunities, they got close, but something went wrong and they were not able to convert.
Penalties and injuries were the story of the day for JP. Starter Robby Harper suffered a concussion during the week and was not able to play. DJ Stefonsky injured his hamstring in the first quarter and had to miss the rest of the game. Fellow senior Douglas Parker had to come out with an injured shoulder as the game neared its finish. Other players who suffered injuries included Joe Simms and Michael Mancini. Ryan McFadden was briefly injured in the beginning of the game, but quickly returned. That entire list includes key contributors to the team; a significant reason, but not the only reason, the Wolves lost.
The Wolves’ offense could not mount much of anything to resemble a serious threat. Unlike the previous week, Ireton’s defense shut down the Wolves’ running game, and with it, took the wind out of John Paul’s sails. The Wolves had themselves facing a 13-0 hole after the first quarter and a 23-0 deficit at halftime.
JP held Ireton scoreless during the third quarter of play, but the same went for Ireton’s defense against John Paul. If the Wolves wanted to pull of a miracle in the fourth quarter, they would need to overcome Ireton’s 23-0 lead.
However, a miracle was not to be. Bishop Ireton tacked on a field goal to increase the lead to 26. The closest John Paul came to scoring was on their last offensive play with about a minute to go in the game. With less than a yard to go on fourth down, they could not punch it in. Ireton was content to run out the clock, and for the second year in a row, the Wolves’ season ended on Ireton’s field.
Not All is Lost
Sports are a wonderful, cruel gift to humanity. They provide us with the highest of highs, while also cursing us with the lowest of lows. One day, or in this case, week, you can be at the summit of success, and the very next you are left scratching your head. So much can change so quickly for a wide number of reasons, and this past week of John Paul football has left us in exactly that situation.
At the conclusion of the Wolves’ second win over Ireton in school history, it was a scene of pure joy, better yet, euphoria. The team celebrated, hugged the students, and ran around without a purpose except to revel in the moment. The crowd was provided a reassurance that their team could prove people wrong and accomplish something next to nobody thought was possible. It was the first time the current senior class had defeated Ireton in varsity football, and the first time in school history the team made the Division I playoffs. In 2010, the same year John Paul last defeated the Cardinals, the Wolves were still in Division II.
Many considered the following school days to be the most spirited days in school history. Banners promoting the game lined the hallways. Students who may not have cared much before began to embrace the enthusiasm of others. A pep rally on Thursday left students with tears from laughter and chills from passion. The community knew that regardless of the outcome of the game, it would be a week few would forget. Freshmen would use it as a standard of things to come, and seniors would take it in as a concluding memory from their time at John Paul.
After the 180 degree turn in emotion which was Saturday’s rematch, not all should be lost or forgotten. Despite a less-than-desirable result, an energy was stimulated that will hopefully remain a constant in the coming months. The football team provided us this year with excitement and triumph.
Thank you, Wolves, for what you’ve done for the school. Here is to what’s to come.