Bittersweet Symphony

Posted by Atif Lodhi on Dec 23 2006 at 04:00PM PST
How can this season be described? I really can't describe how this season went without rambling on for an hour, but then again, this team deserves all the rambling I can give them. This 2006 De La Salle football team did what many previous De La Salle football teams had dreamed of, but no one had achieved until this past season. True, the Pilots were never able to fully reach the pinnacle on two different occasions, but the journey itself was a memorable one. The accolades were numerous, the pride was overflowing, and the sense of accomplishment is well justified. This team did what the 2002 and the 2003 De La Salle football teams had started before it (not to forget any other DLS football team) - continuing a tradition of representing the school with great honor and dignity, while putting De La Salle football back on the map and in the discussion of high quality football programs in the Metro Detroit area and statewide. Where to begin? Coming off two consecutive 4-5 seasons, many prognosticators and Monday Morning Quarterbacks dismissed the Pilots as being a team of any significant consequence this season and a team with little chance to compete in the highly regarded Catholic League Central Division. There were few believers in the beginning and most of them resided at 14600 Common Road. Only the Pilots themselves (and their family and fans) believed this could be a great season. So when Pershing went down, very few gave notice. When Carman-Ainsworth fell, it was regarded with a skeptical eye. When U of D Jesuit was shot down, people said, "Prove it against the Big Boys." When Catholic Central went down, the win was disregarded due to the Shamrocks lackluster performance as of late. When St. Mary's went down, people began to notice, but were still weary. When Grosse Pointe North was defeated, people said, "Prove it against Brother Rice." When Brother Rice went down, people said, "Now do it in the Semis." When Dearborn when down, people said, "Try to compete against Muskegon." And when the Pilots succumbed against Muskegon, only then did the people say, "We believe." This entire season was predicated on the team being the underdog - doing what no one thought a De La Salle football team could do. As the opponents fell, slowly, but surely people began to see the Pilots as a team to be reckoned with and began to give De La Salle its due. But the team could have cared less about what others said about them because for this De La Salle football team, it was about the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back. It was about De La Salle and those who had worn the Purple and Gold with pride before them. It was about those who started the football program in 1927, those who played during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It was about those who gave their blood, sweat, and tears at four different home sites before them. It was about honoring the past, seizing the present, and building a road for the future. It was about...De La Salle. First and foremost, credit has to be given to all of the coaches throughout the program, especially the Varsity coaches: Coach Verska, Coach Lewis, Coach Szatkowski, Coach Julien, Coach Giacona, Coach Szalkiewicz, Coach Haskell, Coach Featherstone, and Coach Zaicek. It was through their dedication of preparing the players so well that the Pilots knew what the opposition was going to do before each and every play. It was these coaches who spent months preparing, revising, scouting, developing, and establishing the game plan and implementing it to the best of their abilities and giving the players the chance to compete with any team in the state of Michigan. Without this dedicated staff, this team would not have done what it did this year. Credit must also be given to the seniors on this team - all 25 of them. For every successful team, there is senior leadership guiding it along the way. On this De La Salle football team, while the program may have indicated just three captains, those three were just the tip of the iceburg in terms of leadership. In essence, every senior was a captain and led the underclassmen along the way. This senior class has created the model of how every senior class after it should act in regards to the football team. Also, credit has to be given to the school administration, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and fans who supported the Pilots through their journey out of the wilderness and into the light. Without the support of these people, we would have not have seen the sea of Purple which arose for the Pilots at Ford Field during the State Finals. Thank you for your support and continue to support this team in the future. This season provided so many memorable moments - Who will forget the whipping Pershing in Week 1 or demolishing a quality Carman-Ainsworth team in Week 2? How about avenging last year's close losses to U of D and Catholic Central in convicing fashion? Let's not forget how the Warren Community Center was rocking when St. Mary's unsuccessfully tried to come back against the Pilots? What about that cold November Saturday night when the Pilots finally vanquished their nemisis, the Brother Rice Warriors, to win the program's first ever Regional Title? And who will forget the memorable showing the Pilots gave its fans and the state of Michigan against Muskegon in the state finals? Personally, this senior group will always strike a chord with me. Maybe because this was Coach Verska's first freshman class that came in after the magical 2002 season or maybe because I had grown close to the players I had personally coached in baseball. Or maybe because when I had seen this team as freshmen in August 2003, I realized the potential for this group was tremendous. This was group of seniors who had started as a team of 63 in 2003 but were whittled down to 25 by 2006. Some players transferred, while others stopped playing football all together, but for these 25 players, a special bond was formed with each other that no one can ever take away from them for the rest of their lives. It was truly something special and something no one will soon forget. While this season has paved the road for future seasons, the mission is not yet complete. The Pilots have climbed towards the top, but now it's time to take care of unfinished business. There is much work to be done for 2007, but next year's senior group knows what it takes to get there and will lead the team and the program to never before seen heights of prosperity. But it was will be a long, arduous road, but it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. There is help on the way from the lower levels, who finished a combined 13-3 this season. It will be these players who will carry on the banner for the 2006 team. "If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me" - that will be the tale of the 2007 De La Salle football team - the 80th year of the program. If it is to be, it will happen. Good Luck and GO PILOTS!!!image


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