AFP Focus | Never say die
Story by Chris Graham
It was a good idea. We at AFP.com would become effective groupies for Waynesboro High School football, and remember, before the season, we all thought this was going to be the year things started turning the corner down at the high school.
Steve Isaacs, mad scientist of football that he is, was entering his third season at WHS, and the kids knew his system, the single-wing, like the back of their hands.
The roster had slowly grown from mid-20s his first year into the 40s by year three. Good. More kids means depth, means the ability to shuttle kids in and out to keep your core fresh for the fourth quarter.
We certainly didn’t foresee 1-8 heading into tonight’s season finale at Fort Defiance. Nor did we foresee the stunning lack of interest in the Waynesboro community for Waynesboro High School football.
And I’m not just talking about the AugustaFreePress.com webcasts there. My webcast partner, Jerry Carter, and I do a bangup job bringing you the play-by-play and commentary and analysis and the like, but we realized from the outset that we were just an add-on, that high-school football on a Friday night is meant to be watched in person, sitting on metal bleachers, listening to a marching band play the hits of the ’60s and the best of Souza, that if you were listening to us, it was because you couldn’t make the drive over the mountain to Crozet or up 340 and across Port Republic Road to Harrisonburg.
And home games? Well, the webcasts are archived. Maybe you wanted to hear how we dealt with the long touchdown run by Kevin Jackson after you got back home. Or maybe you figured out how to get your BlackBerry or iPhone to download the webcasts, and you listened along in the stands.
Problem there – we didn’t have anybody in the stands.
“These kids deserve better. They’re out here every week. People need to get out here. Let’s not listen to it on the radio. I mean, the radio is nice, and all. But let’s get out here in person. These kids deserve that,” Isaacs told me a couple of weeks ago as we discussed attendance, which was, well, in a word, embarrassing.
Case in point: Week 8, home against Rockbridge County. Both teams are 0-7, and neither has really been close to winning a game to this point. It’s rainy and windy, but temperatures are in the low 70s, rare for late October in the Valley.
I can understand missing this one, no doubt about that. I counted around 90 fans in the home bleachers. I had to do an educated guesstimate of the fans in the away bleachers who had driven up from Rockbridge County, close to an hour away. Because the away stands were packed to the gills. They had at least three times as many folks over there.
So I agree with Coach Isaacs. The kids deserve better. They deserve better than to have us sweep them under the rug because they’ve won one game.
Funny thing about the kids. They’re playing their hearts out whether we care or not. Twice this year WHS has scored in the waning moments of games to avoid shutout losses against power, playoff-bound opponents. And just last week, the mad scientist and his willing assistants rolled out a new base offense that Isaacs calls the One Pole Cat that is basically the Swinging Gate that you sometimes see teams try to catch opponents off-guard on extra-point attempts.
“We’re trying to make it fun for the kids. That’s what this is all about,” Isaacs said.
Having fun. They’re 1-8, and the community has given up on them, and they’re still able to have fun with it.
“I think it says something about the quality of our kids. They just snug ’em up and say, OK, we’ll be all right,” Isaacs said.
“I don’t think that anybody can claim or say that our kids have quit at any time all year,” Isaacs said.