High School Sports

August 21, 2014

Several Triangle teams are legitimate state finals contenders

Anticipation of high school football may be at an all-time high in the area. There is so much talent this year that you can drift past almost any stadium Friday night and see something special.

I don’t recall a high school football season that tingled with as much anticipation of great things.

Five or six, perhaps more, Triangle teams are legitimate contenders to be N.C. High School Athletic Association finalists.

Southern Durham was the state 3AA champion in 2013 and Wake Forest was the 4AA runner-up. Durham Hillside, Millbrook, Middle Creek, Garner and others believe this could be their year.

Five or six, perhaps more, Triangle players are attracting national recruiting attention.

Princeton runner Johnny Frasier says he is headed to 2013 national champion Florida State. Wake Forest’s Bryce Love and Garner’s Nyheim Hines are ranked among the nation’s best runners. Cleveland defensive lineman Sterling Johnson was recruited nationally before picking Clemson. Southern Durham quarterback Kendall Hinton is incredible.

There is so much talent this year that you can drift past almost any stadium Friday night and see something special.

Before a few of them join the college sports entertainment business, the guys get to have some fun this fall. High school sports are fun.

We usually think about big old boys and splendid athletes when we think about high school football.

The reality is that most players will never don another football helmet after their last high school game. Most have no illusions, or at least expectations, about being recruited to play college football.

The majority play the game because, despite all the pain, the time, the heat and the cold, making friends and spending time with friends is fun. Twenty years from now, few of the players will remember game scores, but they will remember the camaraderie of shared experiences.

Gratification often is deferred in football. Most players never score a touchdown or even touch the ball. There is no immediate benefit from running one more sprint or taking one more rep. You work and you work and you work more on the promise that you’re gaining something, even if whatever you’re getting can’t be measured immediately.

And there are no guarantee that victories will come from all the work. Football is not a fair sport. One of the things high school sports teaches best is that life isn’t fair.

The player who is the most devoted isn’t always the best. And a player who is bigger or faster, even though he might not have trained the hardest, can have an hefty advantage over someone who has worked more diligently.

The team that works the hardest doesn’t always win. The most cohesive team doesn’t always win, but I’ve seen talented teams more or less self destruct because of egos and personalities.

The reason for our love of football is illuminated by Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Theory. Turner, a historian, presented the thesis during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Turner argued that the moving western frontier shaped American democracy and the American character from the colonial era until 1890.

With no frontier left, I think Americans embraced sports, and especially football in the past few decades.

High school athletics are a wonderful thing. Many area schools field 20 or more varsity teams and no team is more important than another because each team is filled with our children. They are all learning, developing and hopefully having fun.

But the biggest crowds go to football games. There is more pageantry. More community.

And this year, there is more anticipation of great things.

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