Friday, October 29, 2010
Like defeats, injuries and halftime adjustments, Senior Night is something almost every non-professional football coach has to manage.
Fulton Hornets head coach Pat Kelley is no different, though this Senior Night will be a little different. Because not only will he be dealing with a coach sending off his 14-player senior class, he’ll be a father joining his son, Jordan, at halftime for his final game.
You’ll understand if Pat Kelley hasn’t exactly been looking forward to this day.
“I’ve been through this before with my oldest son and, honestly, it is something I have been dreading since the summer,” Kelley said. “It’s hard but joyous, having known these kids since flag football and watching them grow has been great.”
The Hornets host Missouri Military Academy in their season finale at 7 tonight at Robert E. Fisher Stadium in a Class 3, District 6 contest. This is actually Kelley’s second Senior Night as a proud papa, the first being with his oldest son, David, in 2003.
That Fulton team, as well, struggled out of the gates, going 0-7 to start the season. Those Hornets finished differently, though — 3-0 to win their district and make the state playoffs.
The 2010 Hornets (0-9) have had no such luck. They’ll be butting heads with another winless team in MMA, with both attempting to finish the season with a victory.
A win would be nice for Kelley. His team, too. It would be a reward for those who continued to slog through a season in which the Hornets didn’t score a point until a Week 4 game against Marshall and gave up 40 points in seven of nine games.
“They’ve worked hard and come in every Monday ready to go,” Kelley said. “I talked to them this past week and most of them have been on the last two (playoff) teams as well, so they’ve had the good and the bad.”
“If a bad senior season of football is the worst thing that ever happens to them, then they’ll have a pretty good life.”
As bad as things have seemed for the Hornets this season, they’ve been just as frustrating, sometimes more so, for MMA. The Colonels are a team of 25 players — about half the roster size of the Hornets — and have lost their last two games by a combined score of 147-28.
With the influx of new students coming out for the team every season, it is almost as if MMA is starting a new program every year.
“It’s tough and it’s never a good feeling because the kids play so hard and because they have so many new kids coming in every year,” Kelley said. “To their credit, they’ll play hard, they’ll hit hard and then shake your hand with a smile on their faces when the game is over.”
Thankfully, both teams will get to start over in 2011, with tonight’s contest being that first step. It’ll be a stepping-stone for the Hornets of the future, while Kelley will say goodbye to a group of seniors that never packed it in even when it would have been understandable to do so.
Moving on. That, too, is part of coaching.
“You watch these kids grow up and follow them in seventh and eighth grade, and watch them come up as freshmen, so it’s always sad to see them go,” Kelley said.
Losing comes with competing. But then again, so does winning. Kelley would like to finish the season with the latter and not the former.
“Both of us are 0-for-the-season, so it’s a big game for both of us and it’ll give us each a chance to end the season with a good taste in our mouths,” Kelley said.