Inside the Swarm - Chester
By: Paul Davis
The road to Columbia, 2008 edition, began Friday at 3:40 when the team gathered in the chorus room for the pre-game devotional.
The speaker was Union’s own point man for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, former Wofford football player, James Gonsoulin.
But first, coach Lipsey reminded the team that they needed to hit the times on the pre-game schedule. "Stay focused," he continued. "Don’t loose your concentration. Be ready to explode at 7:30 in front of your fans. It will be a fun game but you have to play physically. Out hustle them on every play."
At that point team chaplain Robert Emory introduced Gonsoulin by saying that, unlike some of the speakers they hear, "…James has been where you are, has strapped the pads on, and knows what it’s like four hours before a ballgame."
"I was trying to find a verse in Proverbs," began Gonsoulin, "and when I finally found it, it was Proverbs 22:1. Today is the 22nd and this is the first game of the season.
"You know, names in the Bible really meant something. Most of you have noticed the lineage in the Bible where men and boys are listed like ‘son of Jesse" and other names. To be known as the ‘son of Jesse’ meant a lot more back then than how one’s name is used today. It was about the pride of being known as Jesse’s son.
"You are the Union County Yellow Jackets, a name that means something in football. You, as a team member, represent the team and the school. If you are a Christian, that means you are an extension of Jesus Christ. You represent Christ.
"When I was in high school, I played football in 6A in Oklahoma and played nose and defensive end and I played for God and the team. During the playoffs, the opposing quarterback rolled out and I came hard. He didn’t see me. I smacked him. He broke his nose, and was knocked out of the game.
"At the end of the game tonight, can you say that you really did give it all you had? If you can’t say that, can you live with yourself? What name are you making for yourself with this team? Reload, play hard. Hit hard from the first play. They are in your house. Get jacked up.
"When I was at Wofford, I broke my leg my first year. Even though I was on crutches, when they ran the hill I did the hill. My team was my family.
"Play with passion. If you do, you’ll be able to look back at tonight’s game and all the other games with pride and you’ll appreciate what you did."
On the board, offensive coordinator Dave Mannes wrote: "1. Take care of the football; 2. No foolish penalties; 3. Limit Chester’s possessions to eight or less; 4. Do whatever it takes to win."
"Be ready to play at 7:30," began Mannes. "Think how long you’ve been working for this day. It has been rough and a lot of faces are missing who were here in April. You paid the price but there is a higher price to pay. The harder you work, the harder it is to quit.
"I’ve been in maybe 37 or 38 opening games since I have been coaching and most of them were lost by the team who made the most mistakes. We can not afford penalties inside the 20-yard line. We have to limit their possessions. In baseball, you can’t afford to let the good hitter come to bat with men on base. If we have the ball, they don’t. If every one of our possessions ends with some kind of a kick, we’re okay.
"Someone will have a chance to make a big play but the problem is, no one knows which play that will be. How we get points doesn’t matter. Encourage the special teams, the defense. We coaches believe that you are a better coached team, in better shape - and I’ll bet on that- more disciplined, and protect the ball better.
"Minimize mistakes. But it is all about effort. 100 percent. While tradition never graduates, you must earn it tonight yourselves."
The Defense. Defensive coordinator Chip Bailey began by enumerating the things the defense had to do: "One, get the call from the sidelines. Two, get in the proper alignment. Three, Play your assignment. Four, eleven hats to the ball. Five, tackle. Six, no cheap scores.
"We’ve had a good week of practice and I feel good. But there are some things you have to do. Keep you eyes on me for the call and play YOUR assignment, not someone else’s. You’ve been taught how to tackle so do it. A cheap score is getting beat deep. Don’t let that happen.
"We want to stop the run. We don’t want 2nd and short. We have reviewed what they like to do on the running game. They pull on the dart. Be ready to take on pulling linemen. We will see the counter where they pull two."
In the Gym. Coach Caleb Clark had players stand as he called out the special teams. Then Coach Lipsey began by reminding the seniors that this year will go by very fast. "This is exciting so make the most of it. This is why you work so hard. Have fun. Get after them. Hit. Hit. But you be the one doing the hitting. We start our journey tonight. What will this team be known for? You can’t play well tight. Be loose. Have fun."
Before the kick-off. After reviewing what he wanted the co-captains to do with the coin toss, Lipsey challenged the team to go hard for four quarters. "Everyone to the football. Offense, execute. Get after them. Keep your pads low. Don’t’ bring anything back with you to the sidelines."
After. With the victorious Jackets gathered around Lipsey in the end zone, Lipsey began by acknowledging the conditioning work that strength coach Dane Nelson had done this year, a comment that resulted in a loud round of appreciative applause from every Jacket.
"Great game. You never quit. You kept fighting to the end of the game. Keep working. Next week we are on the road at Gibbs stadium. There’s someone here who knocked them out with the football – Alex Tucker," resulting in another big round of applause from the Jackets.
Quick Hitters. Not everyone on the Yellow Jacket team wears pads and helmets but they still are important to the team’s success – Doc Lipsey’s student trainers. Leading the list is long-time trainer, LaPorsha Gilliam will attend USC-U and wants to pursue physical therapy. Chelsea Puckett has been a trainer for four years and will pursue a career in Sports Medicine at Limestone College. Jamie Smith has also been a four-year trainer and wants to become an elementary school teacher. Charie Burch, a four year trainer, will go to USC majoring in Athletic Training. Mesha Duckett, a two-year trainer, works with all aspects of the Jacket training program. David Vinson, a first-year trainer at Union but a three-year trainer at Jonesville, will major in pre-med at USC… coaches were very pleased with the vocal support of the sideline players…Danny Grady had a shaved caricature of a yellow jacket on the back of his head…Coach Lipsey was very pleased with the Jacket’s energy, physical play, and mental toughness, particularly when falling behind…nose Tevin Thompson attracted the attention of the coaches for his exceptional effort during practice and the game, his getting a key sack, his senior leadership plus, and perhaps most important of all, his success in the classroom…and what a game by kicker and defensive back Alex Tucker.
The Journey Continues. Spartanburg at Gibbs Stadium. Step Two.
© Paul L Davis, 26 Aug 2008
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