“Who hasn’t played yet?”
— Joe Monarrez
St. Francis assistant during last week’s blowout
With a dominant three-touchdown performance to speak of and the likes of Notre Dame and USC personnel, including Trojans Coach Pete Carroll, there to see him put on a show, St. Francis High standout Dietrich Riley was most excited about the fact that everyone got to play.
Riley’s name has likely appeared in newspaper articles more times than some of his teammates have tallied snaps on the field.
Yet, long after he had played his final play in the Golden Knights’ 42-7 lambasting of visiting El Rancho, Riley, a two-time reigning All-Area Player of the Year who’s sought after by just about every major university, was one of the loudest cheerleaders on the St. Francis sidelines.
“I love seeing that,” Riley said after the game.
That being the second string, and third string, getting a chance under the Friday night lights (granted it was a Thursday, but you get the point).
Two quarterbacks threw passes for St. Francis against El Rancho, seven players ran the ball, eight players caught it and 22 Golden Knights made tackles.
The game served as further evidence that as much as Riley’s talent and notoriety have swelled over the seasons, his head has not followed suit.
But Thursday also served as a reminder of what happens beyond the final score and all the talk and hype of college recruits, CIF rankings and all-this and all-that accolades.
Thursday was about kids like Brian Basic and Matt Raba and Michael Dipietro.
Often times, any sport is taken for granted in terms of the work and dedication that goes into it. Practices aren’t covered. People forget about scout teams and the kids whose heart and desire doesn’t always match up with their talent and athleticism.
Some are underclassmen working their way into a future starting spot, while others simply won’t find that luxury.
They exist upon every sideline. And for that matter, in just about every sport.
Long after the stories already been penned within sportswriters’ heads, it’s their time to shine.
Much like the time and effort they put forth in practice every day, their moment under the lights is usually overlooked.
But it is during these times and during these plays when you glimpse another aspect of what is great about this game.
Every kid is happy. Every coach is smiling. And, more than likely there’s a few extra parents up in the stands with something to talk about.
Granted, this is the view from the winner’s sideline.
Truth be told, it was hard to feel pity for an El Rancho team that’s first and only touchdown, which made it 35-7, culminated with an emphatic spike in the end zone. That coming not long after a St. Francis defender had made a big tackle for a loss only to be shoved in the face by the ballcarrier for, apparently, doing something as egregious as making a tackle.
But, in the end, sports, like life isn’t fair.
For every kid to get playing time, there must be the opponent that is blown out. More than likely, it’s the kids who that playing time means oh so much to that empathize more than anyone.
There isn’t always a time to sugarcoat wins and losses and success and failure. But every so often, it doesn’t take a touchdown or a league championship to make a football player smile. Heck, sometimes you don’t even have to gain a yard, the mere fact that your coach called a play that ended up with the ball in your arms is reason enough to smile.
Every once in a while, the biggest highlight comes with the superstar on the sidelines and kids who never get in the paper on the field.
Take it from me, for some kids, a blowout’s the most exciting thing there is.
That’s just the way I see it, playing second string.