The Northwest Herald continues a tradition when a local football team is playing for a state championship with a daily journal from a player on the team. Six Cary-Grove players will share their thoughts each day leading up to Saturday’s Class 6A title game at 1 p.m. in Champaign against Crete-Monee. Today’s final journal is from offensive tackle Kyle Matthiesen.
Every so often, moments have come along this year to remind me how special the Cary-Grove community is.
Moments like last Saturday afternoon. Rolling into the parking lot of Lake Forest High School for the 6A football playoff semifinal game, over the sound of my iPod, emerged the ever-familiar sound of shaker bottles and cheering from our fans. I looked up, and shivers came over my body as I realized that Lake Forest’s stadium had filled up, past its capacity, with our friends, family and community long before our team bus had even arrived.
In my life, never before have I been a part of something as extraordinary as this football team, and this football season. Yet, the feelings of pride and honor I have experienced during it do not derive from the amount of wins we have accumulated, or even how many rounds we have advanced in the playoffs. Rather, these feelings come to me because of the people who surround and make up Cary-Grove football.
These people – moms and dads, brothers and sisters, students and teachers, alumni and players alike – all are responsible for the success of this program. This community is full not of good athletes, but of good people, not of big bodies, but of big hearts. We, as players, try to make this evident on the field, to honor the people and the community that raised us by playing football in a manner that they can be proud of.
We never have been nor ever will be the team with the biggest players or the most NCAA Division I offers. Yet for the past 13 weeks, we have always been the team with the most points on the scoreboard. Our coaching staff preaches daily to us about the lessons of hard work, discipline and consistency. These lessons, having such merit on and off the field, are what have led us to this point.
And as I think about where we are now as a football team and as a community, at the brink of the 2012 6A state championship, I reflect on the true meaning of this journey, which has been the greatest of my life, and try to put it in perspective.
This season will end and give way to another, and yet another, but the lessons both learned and taught from this year will stay with me forever. But not only with me. These lessons will live on, as they have for previous years, under the lights of Al Bohrer Field, to be taught to new generations of young men, year in and year out. When I come back to visit Cary-Grove High School in five, 20 or 25 years from now there may be nobody who remembers my name or my team. But if any player wearing the blue and white takes away as much from this program as I have, I will be proud. Proud to have been a part of something bigger than myself.
I am proud that I have learned what it means to wear the jersey of a Trojan. It is a greater pride than any I have ever known.