No need for an introduction here. Just read and you’ll get a glimpse of pre-game at Rye:
Garnet Battle Cry by Ryan Rossi
“I will fight beside my brother with every last breath. And I promise to leave my heart and soul on the battlefield.”
We repeat the battle cry.
Inspirational words flow from our trainer, Matt Tauber. He’s a speaker like Winston Churchill without the cigar. The atmosphere reminds me of the boats in the movie Saving Private Ryan before they storm the beaches of Normandy. We are in a small room and I can hear hearts thumping. The goose bumps on my arm grow into grapefruits. After every verse, Matt yells. My mind becomes more savage. I’m squeezing my teammates hands as hard as I can, but I’m not even conscious of what I’m doing. I have that much adrenaline.
I look to the left and witness Topher Triano crying not because he’s sad, or happy. He is angry. Few people have experienced the emotion that we did in that tiny room in Mahopac High School before the section one championship. Robert Santangelo is screaming. He can’t control it. It’s all from the animalistic nature that we created. What you need to understand is that you could be a good, non-violent person, Gandhi for that matter. But, when it comes time to play, one needs to be ready for battle.
I hate to compare anything to war. We have never had to experience it. But football is the closest thing we know. It’s a band of brothers working together to achieve a mission in a physical and mental battle. I make eye contact with Chris Lavelle. I’ve never seen him look this way. I have full confidence in him that he can take on any player or challenge he faces in the upcoming game. As this season progresses, I realize that I would trust any of my teammates with anything— my life, or filling in for me in the next play. Football makes a kid into a man. Charlie Rollins or Dave Shaughnessy would never have been able to pancake a big, muscular defensive lineman. Now they can.
The speech becomes more intense. We remember what we are trying to do. In the summer, we promised each other that we would give all our effort to win a state championship. To me, it’s a snowball. It starts off real small, then becomes bigger as it rolls. Replace snow with passion and desire. You have the Rye Garnets.
This snowball has turned into a blizzard. Matt compares us to a sledgehammer. I think every team we have played can testify to that. We are humble, but at the same time, we know what we are capable of when we work together. We haven’t hit our peak yet and hope that we will, before this magical season is over.
“I am a warrior! Let’s go men!” We explode out of the door like corks from champagne bottles. Everyone is trying to get out so we can impose our will. Pleasantville is a great team, but they didn’t get a speech like we did. They may have, no one knows what really happens inside a locker room before a game. I can’t explain it, but like I said in my previous blog entry, only a player can relate.
We take our ground at the field in Mahopac, circle together like a family at a holiday dinner. The announcer introduces us and we break loose. The legendary Dino Garr gives us his epic pre-game Protect the Garnets prayer and we’re off.
Everyone is somewhat nervous, or anxious before the game—whether they admit it or not. Once you get that first hit, you feel better. You think about all the ways you can meet up, or how you’re going to get a huge hit, but you cannot get that action until the first hit.
The offensive line opens up massive holes and the backs dart through them like bullets, unless you’re Kyle Ramalho who barrels through like a bowling ball. You could also say Luke O’Malley runs with flow; he’s like a wave. It’s awesome when we are clicking on all cylinders. It’s our form of poetry. You write it in your head and play it out. Truth is beauty.
With every snap we get closer to our goal. It feels like it’s taking long, but every mission is strenuous. We beat them by almost four touchdowns. It’s comfortable. Looking up at the scoreboard brings me comfort.
We shake hands and jump into the arms of our families. I have two clans—my immediate like my mom, dad and sister — and every name on the Garnet roster. I wouldn’t pick anyone else in the world to experience that emotion with.
Our bus ride back is a cruise. Everyone is joking about everyone, their girlfriends, or, in some cases, the lack thereof. My stomach is just as sore from laughing as it is from the game. We could be a TV show, suited-up reality. People start throwing their used tape and food at each other. Our coaches scream for us to stop. We do, for about three minutes. The bus ride back is a reward for a hard week of preparation. We can enjoy the win for the weekend, but Monday it’s back to work.
No more easy games. This Friday brings a new set of challenges. Each player will face someone better than the week before. As we watch the film of the next team we are scheduled to play, Highland High School, we are reminded that nothing is going to be handed to us. Practice is a grind. There are injuries, and there are days when you just don’t want to work. But, we have to. I’ve been sore since August 21st. I watch the defensive session and I feel at ease when I see Will Ramsey lift a back off his feet, and Matt Foristel runs the ball for a touchdown. Hopefully, we can get events like that to take place on Friday.
The moments on the field have made these the best and most memorable months of my life. Next year, in college, I’m going to think about the pregame speeches, long practices, and, the after-game. Now I’m thinking about Friday. In the summer, I use to talk with Captain Donald Keough, literally every night, about what it would feel like to win another championship. This year I’m a senior, and I know how hard we have worked, so I guess that adds to it, makes it more special. Either way, I’m proud of everyone and will always share this special bond with my boys. I pray to hear Matt Tauber’s warrior speech one more time, to put me in the zone that everyone talks about, but few reach.
Together we will finish this mission. “I am a warrior.” Garnet Pride