"High School Football and the Age of Innocence"
On a late August night, the temperature still sweltering and people still sweating even as the sun went down, I stood on the field with my fellow cheerleaders. A harvest moon rose over our heads and our hearts filled with hope as we eagerly awaited the opening game of what should be a great season. We had most of our starting players returning. I was the co-captain of the cheerleaders. The outlook for this season, my senior year, was promising.
It was the fall of 1975–many years ago. Much has happened since that warm August night. Karen, the captain of the cheerleaders, and my close friend, died just three years later in a double murder which is still unsolved. Her death shattered the innocence of the sleepy little mountain town in southern
As I sat in the stands on such an August evening a few years ago, my mind could not help but wander to bygone days and I was once again on the field next to my friend Karen cheering our team on. We lost only one game that year. But our hopes faded as our team dropped into fifth place in the statewide poll. Back then, only the top four teams in the state earned the privilege of moving on to post season play-offs.
But in the middle of the last game of the season, our luck changed. Over the public address system, the announcer loudly proclaimed that
As the second half of both games progressed, forgetting our own game which we were handily winning, we waited with bated breath for each update on the other game, several hours away. Finally, the last announcement came–Charleston lost! Our own win a few moments later was rather anticlimactic. We were flying high just the same because we knew we were headed to the state football play-offs!
Play-offs, Here We Come!
The semi-final game pitted my high school, fourth-ranked
November 22, 1975 was the coldest ball game I have ever participated in. It would have been bad enough had I been sitting in the stands under a blanket, warming my hands around a cup of hot cocoa; but I was on the field in a cheerleader skirt that barely covered my bloomer clad butt. The layers of shirts under my thick white sweater and the gloves I wore did nothing for my exposed legs that had only a pair of sheer panty hose between them and the frigid air! I think that’s the coldest I have ever been in my life. But it was worth it. We came from behind at the half to claim the title with a 20-7 victory.
That was many years ago and much has happened since. But hidden away in my heart will always be the treasured experience of cheering for the 1975 West Virginia AAA High School Football Champions. Every fall when the leaves look festive, the air feels crisp, and harvest moons hang in the sky like giant pumpkins; America turns attention to its favorite pastime and my mind remembers days gone by, dear friends I have lost, and the glories of high school football in the age of innocence.