Football more than a game

Escambia Academy running back and wide receiver Tehron Stallworth sees football as quite a few others do: something more than just a game.

In fact, the same could, and has been, said for a number of different sports. Baseball writers have bemoaned the loss of the purity of the game when million dollar salaries were unheard of and performance-enhancing drugs were hardly a concern. In basketball, a recent documentary entitled “More than a Game” showed LeBron James and his high school teammates battle adversity and grow as individuals through the game of basketball.

Stallworth sees football in a similar light—a way to grow as an individual.

“What I learned about this whole year is that football is just more than a game,” Stallworth said. “It’s really about life just because we lost our first three games and that shows just as in life, when you’re down and out you just never give up. That’s one thing that I learned from this season that us Cougars—we never gave up.”

Another documentary, “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” goes through a 1968 game between the two undefeated teams of Harvard and Yale. Yale is the favorite and they lead for nearly the entire game. But something strange happens in the closing minutes. With less than two minutes to play, Harvard fumbles, somehow makes a huge gain from the fumble, scores a touchdown, converts a two-point conversion, recovers an onside kick, scores another touchdown and the two-point conversion to end the game in a tie.

Several players say the game was nothing more than a game. However, other players saw the game as something more, especially Yale’s players. For them, the game was a painful exercise in humility, a lesson that they can appreciate many years removed from the game.

Like the Harvard team, the Escambia Academy Cougars found themselves down in the fourth quarter but always believed they could still win the game.

“We just played until that fourth quarter ended and we always played no matter if we lost or we won,” Stallworth said. “We always gave it our all and lasted until the last second of every fourth quarter. We never quit. This season—it taught me a whole lot about life. Different situations that occur in life—you know you’re just going to have to be strong and fight through it, whatever it is.”

Escambia Academy quarterback and safety Michael Thompson said none of the team’s wins compared with fact that the team shared a bond, one they called “a brotherhood,” where each man on the team had the support of the rest of his fellow men.

“I know we only made it to the first round and lost out, but it isn’t all really just about winning,” Thompson said. “We became a team. We became what we call a brotherhood. Once you have that, nobody can take that from you. To me, that was the best thing this season.”

Football is about more than just trying to score a touchdown or make a tackle. Teammates often become friends. Players learn the value of hard work. The Cougars learned the value of never giving up, even when the scoreboard indicates a difficult challenge. Local football players will walk away from the game having learned about things that extend beyond the football field.

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