Monday, February 16, 2009

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Shaun Van Moerkerken reflects on his high school football days.

By Travis Drobbin

High school football in the town of Hopatcong, New Jersey has been historically known as being sub par. This was definitely the case for 20-year-old Shaun Van Moerkerken’s first three years on the football team. Shaun played sparingly his first three years on the team. Shaun played primarily both an offensive and defensive lineman. As the final game of his junior season approached, his coach told the players that everyone who didn’t see much playing time, but still stuck with the team would play. All the reserves got very excited about the possibility of some real game experience. These few minutes of playing time would be vindication for all the early morning workouts, and the summer days spent on the football field. These minutes would provide the reserves with a reward for all their hard work. As the game quickly approached the players were getting even more excited at the upcoming playing time. Shaun waited on the sidelines for the coach to call his number. The halves of the football game came and went, while Van Moerkerken was stuck on the sideline dumbfounded by the coach’s empty promise. He was so disappointed by the broken promise that he questioned his dedication and willingness to play the following year. He came to the conclusion that football was not worth it, and the following day he informed his coach that he would not be returning to the team the next year.

The summer came and went, and Shaun tossed and turned over the decision he made the year before. He even considered coming back to the team to play his senior season. Shaun decided to stick with his decision to forego his last year of high school football. He felt that the practices were too difficult, and the team was consuming too much of his time. The team was not predicted to be any better than the year before, and was expected to finish the season below .500. The Hopatcong Varsity football team won their first game of the season, but lost their second. Shaun felt vindication for his decision, “I made the right choice, because teams not that good. There isn’t any way they will win it all.” Shaun spoke too quickly; as the team then went on to win every game after that leading up to the state championship game. With Shaun sitting in the stands the team went on to win the game, and in turn be the state champions. “I was happy, but at the same time I was sad. When everyone was dancing and crying on the field, I was in the stands.”

Even though Shaun was not on the field to celebrate the victory with his teammates, he was there to celebrate as a dedicated fan. Shaun and a few of his friends began the group called the “Chiefs Line,” which was a group of students who painted their bare chests to spell out chiefs. Regardless of the temperature, or the distance they had to travel the line was at every game cheering on their beloved football team.

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