Arapahoe High School officials made a tough decision last week.
But it was the right call to forfeit the school's football game against rival Cherry Creek after the deaths of two students within three days. Both died by suicide.
Football coach Rod Sherman organized a get-together for students, cheerleaders, poms, dancers and parents at the school the evening of Oct. 5, which was the same night the Warriors were supposed to be playing a Metro East League game against Creek at the Stutler Bowl.
“I felt like without a game, it was important to fill the void with something else, Sherman said.
A male student died on Sept. 29 and a female student on Oct. 2. Both seniors were close to several members of the football team, according to the coach.
Warriors coaches met with players on Oct. 1.
“Our message to them was this is real. As men we just can't roll the football out and say suck it up and play,” Sherman said. “That's not good for them for the rest of their lives. It's not a good message to teach high school young men to hide your emotions and suppress your feelings. We have to deal with those things. If you're struggling, you have to talk to someone. There are coaches here for you and there are counselors here for you.”
Two days after the Oct. 2 death, the Warriors announced the decision to forfeit the game.
“When we made the decision (that) we just can't play, you saw a weight lifted off the shoulders of the team,” Sherman said. “I have great peace with the decision we made because it was the right decision and the best decision for our students. And high school football is a game that shall pass, but their emotions, their feelings and grieving are important things for them to deal with right now.”
Sherman praised Cherry Creek and specifically coach Dave Logan for help when considering the forfeit. Football was the only Arapahoe sport not to play scheduled games.
"I talked to two of our (coaches in other sports) and it was hard for their teams to take the field," Sherman said. "In a sport like football, if you are not into it, prepared and ready to go, you are going to get hurt.”
On second thought
Lakewood boys golf coach Alan Gonzalez was in a familiar position, holding another trophy at the end of the Oct. 2 Class 5A State Golf tournament.
He had to tote yet an additional piece of runner-up hardware to the Tigers' trophy case.
Lakewood has been the state runner-up three of the past four years, and last week at the Colorado Springs Country Club, the Tigers finished behind Fossil Ridge, which came from six strokes off the pace in the second round to win.
For some, second place is a bitter pill. "Psychology Today" reported that Olympic athletes were more happy with bronze rather than silver medals, for example.
But to me, finishing second in a state tournament is a heck of lot better than what dozens of other teams playing 5A golf accomplished this season.
Lakewood was the first-round leader with a six-shot advantage over Fossil Ridge and Arapahoe but couldn't match the torrid three-golfer pace of 221 of the Sabercats in the final round.
“We had a good run and we're still having a good runs, it's just that we've just not had quite enough to get over the hump,” said Gonzalez. “We're just so young, with two freshmen and two sophomores. We can have growing pains."
Sophomore Ryan Liao was fourth in the tournament with rounds of 71 and 74 and he didn't play soccer this fall.
“Ryan got hurt in a soccer game the weekend before last year's state tournament,” Gonzalez said. “He played on Monday but we withdrew him on Tuesday, he just couldn't go. So this year was really his first full state tournament. He was mentally ready to go and we were fully prepared for him to be a contender, and he just (encountered) a kid that was hot with a 66 (Fossil Ridge's Dillion Stewart).”
Noah DiBlase, Max Lange and Jace Wright were the other three golfers competing for the Tigers.
“For my two freshmen (Lange and Wright) those two days were invaluable. They learned over two days and thinking they had it good, then all of a sudden, the second day, it's a different tournament. The pressure is different and you have to be confident.
“It was really good we were in the position we were in, leading the tournament. And everybody said six strokes, that's a big lead. No, it wasn't a big lead. We've all seen it. We knew what Fossil Ridge could do but we knew we could compete with them."
Ponderosa's Mac Konrad didn't get a trophy but he earned a second-place ribbon at the 4A tournament at the Flying Horse Golf Course in Colorado Springs. He played well late in the season and was the regional medalist with his 76 in the 4A Region 2 tournament in leading the Mustangs to the school's first regional title since 1990.
He was in contention both days at the state tourney with rounds of 73 and 72.
“Mac was working this summer so he did not get as much time on the golf course as he had in previous years,” said Ponderosa coach Thomas Flynn. “He started the season slowly and through dedication, perseverance and hard work got his game back in shape in time for the regional tournament... Resiliency is a big reason that he play as well as he did down the stretch at state and also in league play.”
Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 303-566-4083.
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