COMMENTARY: Raiders have one more chance
That is all Coffee County’s football team has left. One more chance to get a win. For the seniors it’s one more chance to beat
Tullahoma. For a 17-year-old who has bypassed girls, parties and video games in favor of blood, pain and sweat only to find himself on the losing end of all nine games this season, this Friday means the world.
Let’s face the facts. Even with a win and a 1-9 record, it has been a disappointing season for the Red Raiders. But if that one win comes against Tullahoma, so much of the negative will be forgotten. For a senior class that has been handicapped by bad hires and administrative failures long before this season began, one win over Tullahoma can drown the misery of three straight losing seasons that haven’t been its fault.
Luckily, for those seniors and all of those clad in Raider red Friday, beating Tullahoma to salvage a near-winless season has happened before. In 1980, then-Manchester Central High School was bad. The Raiders were outscored by their opponents 197-63 and entered the season’s final game against Tullahoma at 0-9. But the Coffee Pot came home with a 14-0 win over the Wildcats.
Anything can happen in one game. I’m sure this crop of players knows that. I hope the community knows it, too.
For players, everything is different this week. The pads go on slower; every rep at practice has more meaning to it.
Even the second team players practice harder now. They know they can push the starters to work harder and have a hand in the game whether they see the field or not.
Classes pass unbearably slow. Players focus on pass patterns and blocking assignments instead of sentence structures and American history. For them, this week is in slow motion, building up to what they hope is a win that can not only save their season, but make the community proud of a struggling program.
As a community, we have to let them know we are still here for them. This game isn’t as early in the season as it used to be. The weather won’t be ideal for the fair-weather fans and neither is Coffee County’s record. But Friday is a chance to witness something that not many people have been fortunate to see (the last three wins over Tullahoma for the Raiders came in 2007, 2003 and 1996). Even if you haven’t made it to a game all year, I encourage you to dust off your old red sweater, your old jersey and your Red Raider hat. Grab the kids and grandkids and take them to see the spectacle that is the 88th Coffee Pot game.
Friday the Red Raiders will take the field against Tullahoma looking for their first win. It’s their last chance. Win or lose, for a few hours, they need to know that no matter what, 0-9 or 9-0, good season or bad, we are on the field with them, fighting to bring the Coffee Pot back home.
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times and co-host of Friday Night Thunder, a high school football program syndicated across Middle Tennessee. He may be reached at 931-728-7577 ext. 105 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshPeterson29