The 3-4th grade team I’m coaching lost our playoff game 32-26 on Sunday to an 8-0 team. We scored on our opening drive only to lose the ball on a very hard strip the next 2 possessions by their dominant player. He scored all 32 of their points and had 3 of their 5 turnovers, he was at max ballcarrier weight, very strong and as fast as my fastest player. He scored on 3 of their first 8 plays including a broken play where at least 3 of our players had him in their grasp.
We were 8-0 coming into this game and had just 2 turnovers total for the season and were averaging less than 2 penalties per game. We had 10 in this one, all but 1 off-sides calls. We came back from an 18-8 deficit to take a 20-18 lead but after the opponent scored the go ahead score, they got us with an onside kick to one of our MPR players. Now down, by 2 touchdowns we came right back to put the game within a touchdown and then held. With about 3 minutes to go from our own 20, we brought it out to midfield before our off-sides penalties caught up with us. That was the only drive where we were stopped with exception of our turnovers.
The first team defense of the team we played had given up just a single score to that point. Our first team defense had also only given up a single score for the year until this game. While our execution was poor, I was extremely proud of our kids. We battled back from a 2 touchdown lead with no waiver in the kids attitude or confidence in a situation where it looked like we could have been blown out. In fact the manchild intercepted us on the last play of the half and looked to be headed for an 80 yard interception return to put the game into mercy rule, but one of our kids didn’t give up on the play and to everyones surprise ran him down on our 10 yard line to save the touchdown and keep us in the game. I was SO proud of him for that effort.
After a couple of minor scheme and personnel changes we had 4 three and out stops on defense and limited them to 2 long scoring plays, one in which we had him stopped for a nice loss in the backfield. This was a very winnable game, with any one of those turnovers costing us the game. Ball protection was something we devoted a tremendous amount of practice time on all season long. In all but one case, our backs were high and tight with the ball with the second hand coming over to protect, but the manschilds rip was just to much for my 61, 60, 71 and 73 lb running backs against a player 30 lbs heavier for most of them.
More on the game later. As always, I took blame for the loss. The wins are on the players, the losses are on the coaches. We were all great sports, no blame games or pointed fingers. I did let the boys know I wasn’t happy about the execution, but it paled in comparison for how proud I was of them and how they battled back. I gave lots of hugs, atta boys and smiles to those disappointed kids There were lots of red eyes and tears, and while a bit disappointed inside I was all outwardly very proud and all smiles.