Letter from Coach Wade: Final Goodbye to SMA Championship Seniors

Two days after Thanksgiving, the SMA Bears football team won the T-CAL State Championship!  Since then, I have wanted to write something to honor our seniors. When we won state, I was literally overwhelmed,  both by the emotions of winning state and by the outpouring of congratulations from friends and family.  I put off writing this, and then softball started, and BANG, life got crazy busy again. Well softball finally ended, and my chance to thank these guys is winding down, and hopefully I am not too late!

Road to the Championship

If I was going to write a script on how a football season should end, I am not sure it would have been much different from how our season actually did end. Some of our seniors have been around for several lean (to be nice) years, stuck it out, worked hard, matured, allowed themselves to be coached, and set a goal that they all, I think, believed was attainable.  Last year, we saw progress, but Tomball Christian was just a little too much for us.  Tomball beat us twice, the second time knocking us out of the playoffs.  In both games we played tough, hard-nosed football, but let some bad breaks really throw us off of our game. This year, I think we as a team and coaching staff started to get a feel for how realistic winning state was as a goal when we beat Tomball Christian on homecoming weekend! In that game we saw that the mental toughness of our guys had grown. We knew Tomball was good, and they took the opening kickoff and drove down the field pretty easily, scoring the first touchdown of the game. In years past something like that caused us to doubt ourselves, and our body language wasn’t too hard to read. This time, we responded by driving right back down the field, scoring our own touchdown, and then from that point playing probably as good a defensive game as I have seen an SMA team play.

The Championship Game

Fast-forward to the championship game. We take the opening kickoff, handle the pressure of a squib kick, fielding it cleanly, and proceed to drive down the field. Christian Wilson, one of our amazing seniors, seems to cap off the drive with a touchdown, but takes a huge hit in the end zone that flips him, and the ball pops out. We are all sure that Christian crossed the goal-line and hit the ground before the ball came out, but the referees disagree, and it’s Tomball’s ball on the two yard line. Again I will say, in years past a tough play and questionable call would have put us into a tailspin, but our guys stepped it up big-time.  Tomball decided to go for it instead of punting from their 10-yard line on fourth down, and more seniors, Tanner McGill, Miracle Paul-Okafor, Walker Powers and Cody Duggins, got a great push and stuffed Tomball. SMA ball on the Tomball 6 yard line!!! Two plays later, a snap gets by senior QB and team MVP Kyle Robbins, but Kyle picks up the wet ball, scrambles, and throws a dump pass to Christian, who catches the ball on the 20 yard line and runs it in for a TD! Longest three-yard TD pass I have ever seen!

I could go on forever about the game, but will just say it was really fitting that so many of the guys who have been with us for the last few years that have been senior leaders this year made big plays. Christian had a touchdown passing and one running that put the game out of reach. Brendan Christensen caught a pass and looked like he was going to get killed, but somehow dodged two guys locked in on him like missiles and broke away for a long TD reception. Kyle ran for 100 yards and threw two TD passes. Jeffry Loyd made a huge sliding catch on a fourth down play that kept a key drive alive. Hank got an interception.

Thank you, seniors!

What I do need to do is tell all of our seniors, THANK YOU for an amazing football season, capped off by a night I will never forget. I remember after the game, feeling so overwhelmed, first by an incredibly happy feeling, and then finally, when I got home, and by myself with the adrenaline gone, by sadness that it was over. Several people, including my wife, asked me if I was glad to have the free time now that practice was over. The honest answer was a wishy-washy yes and no. Football season physically drains us old guys considerably. It is a lot of hours on the field and then a lot of hours watching film, scouting, a ton of time away from our families. The upside though is that a lot of that time is FUN! I have a ton of memories of fun times and things that made me laugh during practice! The games are a pure rush, always! Even the long scouting trips to Houston with coaches were fun.

Seniors, thank you so much for a great year! Chris, I forgive you for sneaking into a game when you shouldn’t have, and thank you for being a good sport when I got onto you afterward. Phoenix, for always being there for me on special teams, and taking pride in flying to the ball. You may also be the most fearless returner I have ever coached. Brendan and Hank, also for never saying no to me on special teams, and for the fun we had in AP Eco, even if you were both masters of getting me off track, you are also both incredibly smart guys and great students! Hank, Shirley, I mean surely, you couldn’t possibly think that I would do this without one more “Hanky loves Tiger” though, right? Which by the way, at our last practice ever, made me laugh until I was in tears, just saying.

A few last shout outs . . .

Cody and Rory, you stepped up and played your best game of the year when it mattered the most!  Collin, I know that hand was killing you, but not a word of complaint the entire championship game, gutsy! Jeffry Loyd, I think you broke one of my ribs when you bear-hugged me after the game!!! I have known you since you were a little guy, and have enjoyed watching you grow up and being a part of your life! Tanner, you have been great defensively all year, but played your best offensive game of the year in that championship game! Three big catches, three key runs, you left everything on the field. My defensive tackles, Miracle and Walker (the Hybrid)! You guys were both disruptive the whole game! Tomball likes to play hard-nosed, physical football and tries to run it between the tackles, but not much room there for them at Houston Baptist! Will Platt, you know I preach special teams, your kickoffs pinned Tomball deep several times! Kyle, you had an amazing year! You are one of the toughest kids I have ever coached. So many big plays and so much heart all year, and just to be clear, I forgive you for the Gatorade bath that came because I wouldn’t put you in on special teams. Silly me, I thought it was because we won, LOL!!! Last but not least, Christian, aka C-Lo!!! What a pleasure it has been coaching you. Most of the most soft-spoken, respectful young men I know.  I will miss you on the football field, you were such a big part of our offense, and I wouldn’t want to have to tackle you, but also have the humbleness and sense of humor to laugh and not get mad when I rag on you about getting tackled by the Savio KICKER!

Love you guys more than I am really able to put into words. I tried to write this in a coherent manner but am all over the place because the emotions still kick in when I think about this team and this season.  You will be missed!!!    –By Coach Toby Wade