Coming together as a team
This single word has been the motto of the St. Marys football squad through the first thirteen games of this gridiron season. The shirt for spirit pack week featured the word on it and so do the helmet decals for the 13-0 football squad.
Not only was the four-letter word adopted by Jodi Mote and his squad but it has come to encompass the entire community and the love the people of St. Marys have for their beloved Blue Devils. Look on almost any lawn of a house through Belmont to St. Marys and beyond and you will see this word bold in purple print on a background of yellow proudly displayed.
In fact, the Blue Devils run to the Class A championship game in Wheeling this weekend began not on the artificial turf on the newly-minted Bill Hanlin Stadium field but out in the community at Pleasants County Park.
It was at the park in the sweltering heat where Mote, his coaches, and their players came together as a cohesive unit in chase of a common goal.
“I felt like with this group of young men was one of the things we had to do was come together as a team,” said Mote. “Because we had a lot of individual talent but the first thing we had to do was unite as a single entity.”
Sure … Players in individual classes were already close to each other. The seniors knew the seniors, the juniors knew the juniors and so on.
However, something different happened during the time all the boys on the team spent together over that one day – Young men from different classes and age groups started talking to each other.
“It was a unique experience,” said running back Ryan Miller. “We had just finished up two-a-days and everyone was tired. We had seen each other so often but I think the trip to the park really pushed us past seeing each other. Thinking back on it being pushed past that point really brought us even closer together.”
Miller started making friends with new teammates and unfortunately some of them left the team a few weeks into the season. Despite the defections, Miller became pretty good friends from Matt Eichhorn, a junior transfer from PHS. The two running backs shared their position in common but also grew to talk about other things as well.
While the team grew to love it, it did take some time to get used to the idea of being away from cellphones, girlfriends, Facebook and life in general.
“Honestly as a team we hated it,” said senior Jacob Northrop. “It was no fun.
“But I think the experience did bring us together because it was an experience we had together. Things were different and it was kind of serene and nice. In a way, we were away from locker room and everything else but still there at the same time.”
The team swam, hung out on the baseball diamond, ate dinner together and according to Will Billeter “tried to get to sleep but really couldn’t because it was 100 degrees out.”
“I don’t think we slept until four in the morning,” said the senior signal caller. “And then we had practice at seven and it was pretty rough. I thought it was a good idea in the beginning but my opinion slowly turned once we actually tried to get to sleep.”
Despite the negative reaction at the time it happened, the trio of seniors was appreciative to have had the opportunity to have the bonding time as a team. All the boys united as one for one common goal – a state title – which can be fulfilled with a win over top-seeded East Hardy at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
“That is one of the things I will remember most about this team,” said Mote. “Regardless of what happens Saturday is how they came together and really believed in our team concept and playing for each other.”