As the sun sets for the day, still silence hovers over the Salt River High School football field. The boys locker room is cold and dark, the strong aroma of sweaty football pads and dirty cleats fill the nostrils.
The players begin to walk in, one by one. For eight high school seniors, this will be the last time they prepare to play under the Friday Night Lights. It’s the last time these 17- and 18-year-old boys will look around at each other, crack an inside joke and take a moment to absorb the memory as they finish putting on their prized uniforms. For one last time, they will sit, look up at their lockers and witness the light shining on their helmets, as if it were a trophy only they could acquire for all the hard work they have put in over the past 12 weeks.
Outside, the silence is broken by children running around and families taking their seats in the stands, parents eager to watch their sons take the field and battle the evening’s foe, the Cibecue Wildcats. Finally, the eight seniors walk onto the field, warm up, make adjustments to their equipment and finally-they take the field, locking hands by the waist. There are four that walk ahead to prepare for the coin toss and meet their opposing captains. All eight hold the honor of being team captains for the final game of the 2013 season. Flooded with emotion, the seniors and the rest of the Salt River High School Eagles football team prepare for the kick off.
Winning Isn’t Everything
The game started out with penalties and sloppy execution. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 0-6, the Eagles on top. After settling down, the Eagles found their groove and never looked back, scoring 28 points in the second quarter. The score at the half was 6-28.
During halftime, SRHS Athletic Director Shawn Lytle recognized all the graduating seniors from the football team, the cross country team and the spirit line. Their family members had left the stands and come down to stand on the field for the ceremony.
During the second half, the Eagles continued to cripple the Wildcats’ offense while scoring another 20 points in the third quarter. The fourth was much of the same. The Eagles won their last game of the season with a final score of 6-54
Mahki Marcus (senior, No. 5) gained 169 all-purpose yards, 55 receiving and 114 rushing. On the defense side, senior Delbert Ray III (No. 64) tallied 14 tackles, six of them for a loss. Senior Jay Wilson (No. 44) had 11 tackles, four for a loss. Alex Hill-Jimenez (freshman, No. 2) gained 150 yards rushing, passed for 55 yards and scored three touchdowns.
“In terms of wins and losses [for the season overall], we are not happy with the results, but we rallied behind other things, personal growth,” said the Eagles’ head coach, Brandon Tauscher. “There’s a good team culture, a strong brotherhood.” Initially, when Tauscher approached Marcus to join the football team, he declined. “I asked Mahki [Marcus] several times to come out and play; he kindly said no, but then he showed up,” Tauscher said. “This is Jay’s [Wilson] first year; he has made some great plays. Both of them have. I don’t know where we would be without these two guys.”