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THE SEASON OF LOSS: Disappointing end for Bainbridge Spartan football fans
America loves an underdog.
We love to root for the dark horse and side with the little guy. We cheered when a skinny track runner from Eugene set records for nearly every distance at the 1976 Olympics. We cheered again when the U.S. Olympic hockey team beat out the Soviets in 1980. We cheered when Rocky went the distance against Apollo Creed.
The only thing America loves more than an underdog, it seems, is a winner.
So what happens when the stage is set for an epic underdog victory tale, and the win just doesn’t happen?
In the world of sports, where everything is statistically qualified and mathematically organized, it can be easy to lose sight of the people behind the jerseys. How a team handles defeat is surely as important as how they handle success — even if the movie might not be as good. The fact remains: You can’t win them all.
The book has now officially been closed on just such a season for the Bainbridge High School varsity football team, a battle-tested team that finished the season with an overall record of 1-9.
Long time coming
It was a long and difficult road for the team. The first win didn’t happen until post-season, but Spartan Head Coach Andy Grimm is reticent to judge the season based solely on the numbers.
“What we really focused on during the season, and tried to wrap up with last week, is not focusing on the record,” Grimm said.
“What you’ll hopefully learn from a year like this is how you deal with adversity when things maybe didn’t go your way on the scoreboard,” he said. “These are things that are going to pull you through ten or twenty years down the road.”
Adversity was something the Spartans had in spades this year. They competed against several larger and more technically skilled teams, all while battling injuries that continually forced the coaches to rearrange the players.
“Statistically it’s not any more [injuries than usual], but when you’re playing with less kids it impacts you more,” Grimm said. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse by any means.”
No quit in Spartans
Grimm said he was proud of the team’s resilience in the face of unpleasant experiences early on.
“There’s no quit in this group and that was great to see,” Grimm said. “I think, considering the numbers we had and the amount of injuries we had, I thought the kids played hard all season and continued to get better. I think if you look at the teams we played, quite a few of those teams were pretty strong teams. Eight of the 10 made the district playoffs.”
In addition to the team spirit, Grimm said that there are many ways in which the team succeeded this year.
“There’s things to be proud of statistically,” Grimm said. “I think having a 1,000-yard rusher is pretty great any season.”
BHS’ man on the move
That rusher is BHS senior running back Taylor Wilson, who dominated the Spartan offensive efforts and finished the season with 187 carries for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Wilson now holds the school’s record as seventh-best all-time season rusher since 1984.
Wilson said that the team’s skills improved every game, and their performances at the end of the season were more indicative of their overall ability.
“In the Franklin game it was nice to show what we could do,” Wilson said. “When there’s no touchdowns and you just reset, it’s very hard.”
Defensively, BHS senior Jarett Grimm recorded big numbers this season as well. He completed the season with 64 unassisted and 11 assisted tackles with two sacks.
“Jarett’s a typical example of the senior group,” Coach Grimm said. “He’s a two-year starter and 180 pounds, not a big kid. But he maximizes what he’s got on the field. He’s playing roughly the toughest position on the field, center on offense, undersized,” the coach said. “He’s going against a lot of big guys, and he just does his job.”
Small roster, big trouble
Early in the season, Coach Grimm admitted that the size of the team would be a disadvantage.
He wasn’t wrong.
“It’s the physical aspect that’s hard,” said linebacker Jarett Grimm. He noted that keeping each play straight mentally from multiple angles is difficult, but not as difficult as constant play without the chance to rest.
The season may have been disappointing for fans, but the players agree that it was a valuable experience.
“We were undermanned,” said BHS senior quarterback Connor Teddy. “There were better athletes out there. Everyone played the whole game, I was pretty proud of that.”
Spartan teammate and BHS senior running back Paris Amore agreed.
“We changed offenses in the middle of the season,” he said. “So we had our start of the season in the middle of the season.”
The Spartans managed 34 touchdowns and scored 203 total points this season.
The top non-senior rushers were sophomore Sam Wysong, who finished the season with 18 carries for
60 yards. Junior Kyle Jackson had 54 carries for 183 yards; junior Ben Fisher with five carries for 14 yards; and junior Casey Brink who completed 11 carries for 15 yards.
The top non-senior receivers were Jackson with six receptions for 113 yards; Wysong with three receptions for 17 yards; Brink with 13 receptions for 190 yards; and Duncan McCombs who finished the season with seven receptions for 131 yards.
Defensively, the top non-senior players were junior Max Thomas who finished the season with 49 unassisted and nine assisted tackles; Brink with 35 unassisted and three assisted tackles; and Wysong with 20 unassisted and two assisted tackles.
Coach Grimm maintains that this season, even in the years to come, will always make him proud when he remembers the sheer perseverance of the kids.
“That’s not a message to make them feel better,” he said. “That’s an honest statement from me and some of the other coaches in the locker room.”
“Very, very few of them along the way bailed; they hung with it. That’s a tribute to those kids,” Grimm said. “The easy way out is to quit. It’s easy to walk out the door, but you haven’t learned anything from it. You can’t determine anybody’s character when they’re winning.”
“People show their character when you’re struggling. That’s real-life stuff. Things aren’t always going to be awesome,” he said.