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Football playoff preview

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by LemMan, May 29, 2007.

  1. LemMan

    LemMan Member

    Wrote this in the fall. Tell me what you think...

    BRADENTON --- It was days before the biggest game of the season, and
    some of
    Manatee's stars huddled up.

    There was Austin Jensen, a year
    removed from making the Class 5A all-state
    team. There were linebackers Ray
    Morris and Josh McCoy, two integral pieces of
    the area's stingiest run
    defense. There was Kyle Levins, a member of the team's
    secondary. There were beefy offensive linemen Spencer Hodges and Ben
    along with fullback Nick Roehl, who spends his Fridays running through
    craters Hodges and Garrott create. There was quarterback Ryan
    Rubino, sidelined
    with knee and shoulder injuries, but still part of the
    team, and senior role player
    John Moran. Only this huddle was miles from
    Hawkins Stadium and had little to do
    with blocking assignments and fade

    "I want to pray for my grandfather. He's getting older,"
    Rubino said, his eyes shut
    and head bowed. "Watch over him."

    It's Sunday
    night. Time for a Young Life campaigner meeting.

    They've been coming
    together for four years, the aforementioned players and a
    handful of
    friends. On this Sunday, days before the Hurricanes traveled to North
    Myers for tonight's Class 5A-Region 3 championship game, the meeting
    place in the living room of Young Life area director Jim Nelson's
    west Bradenton

    Established in 1941 by a Texas parishioner, Young
    Life is a Christian ministry that
    reaches out to students in middle
    school, high school and college, and that reached
    Manatee County in 1989.
    The group as a whole meets on Wednesdays, but
    throughout the county,
    smaller groups, referred to as campaigner groups, come
    together throughout
    the week.

    Yes, it is an organization steeped in religion. The group
    read and discussed a Bible
    passage Sunday and concluded the meeting with
    each member locking arms,
    dipping his head and rattling off a quick

    But it's far from the only reason this particular bunch has been
    meeting weekly
    since Nelson put it together in 2003. He had just
    graduated a group of seniors,
    and was introduced to this crew when they were
    freshmen, long before they
    steered the varsity Hurricanes to
    back-to-back district championships and last
    year's regional title.

    we'll come here and won't open a Bible," Roehl said. "You come here
    get a lot from it without even having to open a Bible, just by from
    what other
    people say, from what other people have done."

    Roehl is
    speaking from experience. His most powerful recollection is when member
    Fleming told the group that doctors had found an aneurysm in his brain,
    he could no longer play football.

    "He came here, and he was still
    upbeat," Roehl said of Fleming, a baseball player
    who still attends
    meetings and football games and is living with his condition. "It
    like, 'Oh, my world's ended.' He was still thankful because they found
    it, he's
    alive, and he can still be a fan."

    Every Sunday throughout the
    school year, the group gets together. Sometimes
    they'll be at someone
    else's house. Or maybe they'll take in a movie. Or maybe
    they'll take a
    trip to one of the 20 Young Life camps scattered throughout
    country, such as Southwind, a camp near Ocala where the group spent
    weekend following Manatee's regional semifinal win over Dunedin.

    But Sunday
    they were at Nelson's, where the setting was casual. Members
    typical church attire for football T-shirts, backwards caps and
    as they passed around a case of Mountain Dew and a plate of homemade

    They squeezed onto the sofas and chairs lining Nelson's living
    room to form a
    circle. And the meeting, as each one before and after
    it, began with "Highs and
    Lows," where each group member recounted the
    high point and low point of the
    past week.

    The high points varied from a
    successful stab at ultimate frisbee to Manatee's
    pummeling of Dunedin
    to the thought of a school week shortened by Thanksgiving.
    One of the
    lows sat in front of everyone's face: Hodges, the team's
    I-caliber lineman and one of its captains who suffered a season-ending knee
    Friday night. His left leg was outstretched on a hammock, and
    there was a pair of
    crutches by his side. And luckily for Hodges, so was
    Young Life.

    The group has been through plenty over the years, Nelson
    recalls, and have always
    managed to take solace in each other. It happened
    last year, when Rubino suffered
    a severe knee injury during Manatee's
    Class 5A state semifinal game with Fort
    Lauderdale St. Thomas

    He returned to his house from the hospital that night to find his
    campaigners waiting for him.

    It happened when Morris lost his
    grandfather nearly a year ago.

    "I didn't really have anyone to talk to about
    it because my family was going
    through the same thing I was," Morris
    said. "I talked to them, but talking to these
    guys, and coming here . . .
    Being able to think about something else for a little bit,
    it really
    helped me through it. They were all there at the church with me,
    really, really helped me through it."

    And it happened recently when
    Manatee alum Zane Zavadil, a friend to many of the
    campaigners, died in a
    car accident.

    "They've stayed together. They have never left the group.
    There's been some
    issues and some problems, but they've hung together,"
    Nelson said. "They've been
    really committed to each other. . . . This
    is a very, very special senior class."

    That's the reason they all make
    time for Young Life. That's why Debbie Crowe,
    Morris' and McCoy's boss
    at The Shake Pit, gives them Sundays off. That's why
    Morris and Garrott
    cut their hunting trips short. That's why Roehl chuckled
    recently when,
    while attending a USF football game, Nelson --- seated just a few
    down --- sent him a text message, reminding him about Sunday's

    "I was like, 'Yeah, Jim. I know,' " Roehl said.

    The meetings will
    not end with Manatee's football season. And they won't end when
    Roehl and the rest of the seniors head off to college next fall. They'll
    be a
    new class and new batch of campaigners to lead.

    Nelson knows
    he'll never forget this one.

    "They really love each other, and they have
    set a new tone and new culture for all
    the kids below them who are
    looking up to them," Nelson said. "They've really been
    great examples."
  2. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    I enjoyed the story, but there were a few gaps that left me wondering.

    First, I'd like to know more about Nelson. Who is he? Why is he involved with kids from the football team? Is he only involved with kids from the football team? If so, why not kids from the baseball team?

    You mention that this Nelson was introduced to these seniors, but you don't say how it took place. By a coach?

    I'd also like to hear the kids speak a little more. It might be nice to hear one of them address the whole idea that kids who do this sort of stuff are pussies or Jesus freaks or something of that nature. Surely, they've had to deal with that sort of sentiment at some point along the way.
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