They guided their teams through August two-a-days, through early-season jitters and late-season fatigue. But as a handful of local football coaches watched their seasons wither to a final few minutes Friday night, they felt as powerless as fans in the stands.
"When the season is on the line, that's not something you can really have the players ready for," Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim said. "You don't know how your team will react until it happens."
Several coaches, then, woke up yesterday morning with better appreciation for their players' composure. In the first round of the playoffs, Lackey, Stone Bridge, Hylton, Edison and Seneca Valley all advanced thanks to clutch performances that coaches took little credit for.
Kim, for one, watched his team survive three overtimes for a 45-39 win over Urbana, each extra period making him feel exceedingly helpless. "It was like, 'Who is going to step up?' " Kim said. Then running back Shawn Perry provided the answer, scoring the winning touchdown on a six-yard carry -- his fifth score of the game.
"It was amazing to watch," Kim said. "In big moments, some kids just get better."
Lackey Coach Scott Chadwick felt like his whole team improved for the final second of its 21-19 win over Friendly. Chadwick sent his goal-line defense onto the field under what he termed "nearly impossible" conditions: Friendly had the ball six inches from the end zone; Lackey players had already celebrated a win on the previous play, after the clock appeared to run out.
The coach told his defense to get a good push up the middle to stop a quarterback sneak. Then he watched his players pull off the ultimate pressure performance.
"For us in that situation, I don't really know that we had much left," Chadwick said. "The kids just put everything into it. That's not something you teach. They just lined up, steadied their emotions and did just a tremendous job under pressure."
-- Eli Saslow