There are many high school football seasons that end with a long, cold bus ride back home. In fact, it’s likely that the vast majority do. And the deeper you make it into the playoffs in Indiana, the longer and colder that ride will likely be. Only six teams will finish without experiencing the sting of a final loss. For everyone else, there is heartbreak. All of these years later, I can still vividly recall my own final ride home with pads. It was quiet, with the low vibration of the tires broken only by the occasional sniffle or murmured word. Yet, the sadness is not what I remember most. It is the warmth of the teammate leaning against me with his foot propped up on the bench across from us, ankle wrapped in ice. It is the bone deep consolation of leaving it all on the field, and appreciating those last subdued moments together. It is the hugs and handshakes, shoulder pats and fist bumps. It is the final walk, with your best friends, from the locker room to your ride in the wee hours of the morning. We often hear, with respect to romance, that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. I’m confident that our Shamrocks woke up Saturday morning, like I did all those years ago, with a different, deeper understanding of that saying than they did the night before. It hurts to lose, but it hurts because you cared. You put your heart and body on the line, alongside teammates you will recall with picture-perfect recollection decades later, and lost. But not for lack of fighting. There is a resonant satisfaction in that.
Each season, when I write this final recap, I steer away from the active summary of the previous weeks, and instead try to find the right way to close the book on this most recent chapter of the Westfield football family. It seems clear to me that this crop of Rocks will be remembered for their grit and determination in the face of adversity; the way they competed when faced with tall challenges. They complete the season with an 11-2 record (6-1 HCC), having won 5 games by a single score or less. The magic ran out on this sixth heart-attack special after a furious comeback and two overtimes; one finger-tipped pass away from keeping the dream alive. It is tragic, but it is also an experience that binds. Forever will this football family remember the heartbreak and highlights from the 2023 season semi-state run.
Thanks to all of the fans who help to make the Friday night experience what it is in Westfield. Riverview Health Stadium continues to be a great place to be a Shamrock, and we remain grateful for the steadfast support of this special community. Thanks to the parents who have put countless hours into these fantastic young athletes and managers. We appreciate the time we get “on loan” to love on your kids. They are, ultimately, what makes this program what it is.
Most of all, we thank our seniors for the excellent example of what it means to compete as a complete team. We thank you for holding the standard of “Out Work. Out Love.” And we hope that, decades from now, you will reflect upon these four short years as among the most amazing experiences of your life. We had a blast, and we hope you did, too.