What do you say when one of your football players says, “Coach, they are too good. I can’t block them. There is nothing I can do.”
That is the plight of Fall Mountain Football Coach John Callahan at the moment when injuries and numbers have put the Wildcats in the position to play five freshmen regularly against strong opponents, who can control anything they want to control. Last weekend, Monadnock controlled the game versus Fall Mountain from start to finish, in shutting out the Langdon eleven 40-0.
Monadnock has not been scored upon this season the team that recently graced the New Hampshire Division II ranks and was competitive, now feeds on Division III teams. As you have heard here much of this fall, something has to happen to save football at many schools in Vermont and New Hampshire. The Fall Mountain kids don’t deserve this. Coach Callahan doesn’t deserve this. Monadnock is not the only strong team and Fall Mountain is not the only weak team.
Callahan loves to coach football. In my opinion, last week, he didn’t coach football. He and his Wildcats competed against a Husky team, who really did whatever they wanted to do. They have not been scored upon this season and at this rate, they probably won’t be.
The outcome of the game was determined early the reserves saw plenty of time. Despite that, Callahan said, “What we were not going to be allowed to score. When we started a drive going, their regulars came back on the field.”
For many, red flags go up quickly here. Undefeated Bellows Falls takes pride in their defense, both first and second team, BUT, when the reserves are on the field, points are scored. “They are not going to let anyone score against them as long as they can,” Callahan said, BUT, in the end, the coach wasn’t upset about it. It is presently his way of life most weeks
Monadnock also controlled on offense. They weren’t going to let Fall Mountain score, BUT, they weren’t going to score either. “They basically took a knee when they neared our goalline,” Callahan said, going on to say, “they weren’t going to run up the score on us.” My thought is, Callahan has been around a long time. He has coached many teams at many stops and since he has never been in these particular shoes before, he didn’t know how the game was played any longer. This was not the game he grew up with and loved. He was most likely wondering, “What’s going on?”
There has been a lot of feed back about this game. Most all of it is negative. There has been a good amount of criticism of what people call, Monadnock’s tactics. I don’t buy it. Linwood Patnode, the Husky coach, like the Fall Mountain program itself, becomes a victim of a system that does not work. What do you do? Win 80-8?
My mind drifts back to the night of August 23. Fall Mountain scrimmaged at Springfield. I covered that event. I remember how young those Fall Mountain kids looked inside their helmets. I also remember their enthusiasm with a new season ahead of them. There was decidedly more hope than there should have been. Looking into the stands and listening to the words of encouragement from many of the parents and fans, a much better outcome to date, was expected by most of this team. I knew that would not be the case, BUT, in many ways ignorance is bliss.
Springfield outplayed Fall Mountain that evening. In some ways, the scrimmage was close. Both coaches walked away, both content, with some things they had seen, BUT, knowing there were miles to go before either of those same coaches could sleep with any type of real satisfaction. There was so far to go. One thing was real apparent though. Springfield had more depth. Their program was further along. Both teams would have some real tough days ahead, BUT, the numbers Springfield had in their program gave them an advantage.
When I found out about the Monadnock debacle, I called Springfield Coach Rich Saypack. I asked him how he had viewed Fall Mountain at the end of their scrimmage. “I knew we were a lot more physical than they were and I knew when attrition came, it would cause them even more trouble than it would us because of their numbers. Obviously I could tell they were very young, BUT, I knew the real difference between the two programs would come when players were missing. Where as the season goes on, we have JV numbers and now when we put a replacement on the field, they still will be young, HOWEVER, they will have some field experience. You knew Fall Mountain would not have that” The two teams are similar in many ways, BUT, Springfield has almost three times as many players in uniform and that makes a big difference.
Even the author of this piece had higher hopes leaving the scrimmage that evening. I knew the key to a win or two, was in the belief of the players, IF they really thought they could really win a game or two. Those in attendance, in an exciting close loss to Raymond at home, in week two, saw the way football should be played. It should be competitive most weeks. I know, I have sung this song a lot lately, BUT what happened last week at Monadnock and what is likely to happen in the next few weeks ahead, will lower that level of confidence so far, it is tough to fathom how they will ever get it back.
Football should continue at Fall Mountain and so many other schools that are in similar situations. IF, the state powers that be don’t find a way to fix the problem, they shouldn’t be allowed to stick their collective heads in the sand. They should be made to attend one of those games each week and find out for themselves, how wrong the whole system is.