CALDWELL - The Caldwell Redskins finished the 2010 high school football season with a sparkling 9-1 record. Usually after such a successful campaign, a team is rewarded with a trip to the promised land of the state playoffs.
That didn't happen this year for Caldwell, as their region was loaded with talented teams and their one loss to Monroe Central was enough to keep them on the outside looking in.
"We feel just like Boise State is going to feel at the end of the college season. The boys are disappointed but will learn to live with it. It was just the way it was supposed to play out, " said Caldwell coach Mike DeVol.
DeVol expressed great pride in his team and their accomplishments, playoffs or not.
"We have a great group of seniors, just the nicest group of boys you could ever hope to work with. I helped coach the 8th grade team five years ago and these boys know what it takes to be a leader in life," said DeVol.
DeVol believes in the positive influence that extra-curricular activities can have on the young people participating.
"It is the greatest educational opportunity we can give them. It teaches ups and downs, how to handle it both ways. Someone once told me a perfect season would be 5-5, that way the kids would have as many chances to learn how to lose as they would how to win. I don't think I can agree with that," DeVol said with a smile.
Does a system that leaves out a 9-1 team need fixed?
"I don't think the playoff system needs changed. Whether there are eight teams, or six, you still have some first round match-ups where some teams really don't belong and get blown out," said DeVol.
What could have the Redskins done differently to reach the playoffs?
"I guess we needed to win all ten games or be in a different division," said DeVol. Those things aren't possible without time travel and other magic so the coach and his team with have to be satisfied with giving their fans one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.
The philosophical perspective DeVol puts the season into should help ease the pain his players feel at not making the playoffs. The football season is but a small part in the young lives playing it.
"They learned to lead by example. They understand how to win and more importantly, how to win at life. We started six underclassmen on both sides of the ball and had 18 freshman at the end of the season. We have a good foundation to build on," said DeVol.
According to DeVol, there are things much more important happening on the practice fields, gyms, and wrestling mats in the area than wins and losses.
He sees coaching as an opportunity to reach kids that might not have another positive outlet available to them.
"Coaches can be the most important person in the life of an at risk child. Kids in good situations don't need us, the at risk kids do. God doesn't make bad kids, people do," said DeVol.
Sports are full of clinches, but of course we wouldn't have them if they weren't based at least in part in fact. The Caldwell Redskins were winners this year by any standard you could judge them, and DeVol should get some credit for instilling an atmosphere that was compatible with winning.
Winners work and workers win.
The fact that the atmosphere in Caldwell was also a breeding ground for leadership, responsibility, camaraderie, accountability and teamwork speaks volumes about the Caldwell program, it's coaching staff and of course, it's players.
Congratulations on an outstanding season.
Jim Markley is a sports writer for The Marietta Times.