Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When watching high school football is about more than just the game November 2, 2015

The St. Croix Valley Crusaders and the Jackson County Central Huskies line up before the game starts Saturday afternoon.

The St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders and the Jackson County Central Huskies line up on the football field before the game starts Saturday afternoon.

I DRESSED IN MY BUFFALO PLAID red and black on Saturday. Not because I wanted to portray Mrs. Paul Bunyan on Halloween. Rather, I was showing my support for the St. Croix Lutheran High School football team which Saturday afternoon competed against Jackson County Central in state play-offs. My nephew, Stephen (number 87), plays tight end for the red-attired Crusaders.

 

Football, 120 scoreboard

 

Sometimes the action looked like nothing but a pile of players to me.

Sometimes the action looked like nothing but a pile of players to me.

While the St. Paul based school pushed hard to win, they couldn’t defeat the Huskies, a husky and formidable team from southwestern Minnesota. The final score: 44 – 26.

Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter hosted the game.

Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter hosted the game.

The Halloween themed sign held by the JCC cheerleaders.

The back of the Halloween themed sign held by the JCC cheerleaders.

JCC players run through the sign and onto the field for the start of the second half.

JCC players run through the sign and onto the field for the start of the second half.

Certainly, seeing my nephew’s team win on the football field at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter would have been a Halloween treat. But, JCC dominated, proving the truth in the words the players busted through before starting the second half:

Trick or treat, smell our cleats. The Huskies can’t be beat.

JCC cheerleaders fire up the crowd.

JCC cheerleaders fire up the crowd.

Crusaders fans, including Winnie the Pooh. Some students dressed in Halloween costumes.

Crusaders fans, including Winnie the Pooh. Some students dressed in Halloween costumes.

My brother, right, and friends watch the game.

My brother, right, and friends watch the game.

The Crusaders pep band infused school spirit.

The Crusaders pep band infused school spirit.

The spirit of JCC fans, led by enthusiastic cheerleaders, impressed me. Not that Crusaders fans weren’t supportive. We were. I can vouch for my sister-in-law’s continual encouraging screams. My youngest brother stood behind us, several bleacher rows away in an aisle, chewing gum super fast and focusing his eyes on the field the entire game. St. Croix Lutheran came with a pep band. But no cheerleaders. Students seemed subdued for a play-off game.

Occasionally, the clouds parted and sunshine shone upon the football field.

Occasionally, the clouds parted and sunshine shone upon the football field.

Ready for action...that's my nephew, Stephen, #87 in the front.

Ready for action…that’s my nephew, Stephen, #87 in the front.

Crusaders fans cheer on their team.

Crusaders fans cheer on their team.

I’m a quiet fan, too. I was here on this Saturday to support my nephew. Not in a super vocal way. Simply by my presence. If his team won, good. If they didn’t, they didn’t.

The Crusaders huddle.

The Crusaders huddle on the sidelines.

A ref makes a call.

A ref makes a call.

I found myself studying the varying footwear and leggings.

I found myself studying the varying footwear and leggings.

Repeatedly during breaks in the action, the announcer emphasized respect as highly-important in competition. I value respect; both teams showed respect for each other. But, bottom line, these teams play to win. That’s why they’re on the field.

A sign proclaims Husky Power.

A sign proclaims Husky Power.

It is easy, when you are as far behind as the Crusaders were during the game, when plays just aren’t working, when the other team repeatedly scores, to give up. I felt that in a sense Saturday. JCC was the stronger team. Even I, someone who does not watch football much, could see the Huskies’ dominating power.

Stephen, #87, tackles the JCC player carrying the football.

Stephen, #87, tackles the JCC player carrying the football.

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St. Croix Lutheran and Jackson County Central in action.

A JCC player prepares to throw the football, left.

A JCC player prepares to throw the football, left.

This is the first football game I’ve attended in probably 40 years. I don’t know many of the nuances of the game. But that’s OK. I understand the basics.

Several Crusaders players left the field with injuries.

Several Crusaders players left the field with injuries. Here teammates support one another.

And I understand the value in being with family—on this Saturday four of my five siblings and their spouses—to support Crusaders number 87. This is what families do. They support and encourage one another. In good times and difficult times.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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16 Responses to “When watching high school football is about more than just the game”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I have spent many a night in the bleachers watching football games and I love the way that sports can unite people. I don’t understand all of the rules but I get caught up in the excitement and the thrill of those around me when the team I am cheering for is doing great things on the field. I am looking forward to this weekend when the family will be at the UNC Duke game together –it is sure to be a great game and since I will be with my “boys” it will make it even better. Loved the feet shot!

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Football…………….if it’s high school, my attention does wander from the technical game and to such things as who else is in attendance, footwear of the players (also!), involvement of the parents on the sidelines (sometimes very UNsportsman-like!!), how very young the players look!, etc. If it’s “Pro” FB, (TV only these days), I am all about the game, the “ref-ing” and the skills of the players (many/each of whom are pulling in a salary that seems, to me, to be a tad obscene!!!!!!!)……AND, I am not a silent fan (on a sideline or couch!)…….sigh………………

  3. I love where this ended up! Yes, families support each other through thick, thin, and football.

  4. Jackie Says:

    Ahhh, brought me right to a few years ago when both my boys were playing. I LOVED to go watch them play and really kind of miss it. Then there was the 40 years ago that I sat on my High school bleachers cheering for my Kicker/punter/quarterback boyfriend (now husband). It was so great that the Aunts and Uncles were there to support #87, you’re right that’s what familys do. Also, GREAT SHOT of Stephens tackle! Hard to get that clear of a photo with movement 🙂

    • You’ve had lots of experience supporting family members and boyfriend, aka husband. I imagine you would miss it.

      I actually got a series of three photos from that tackle Stephen made. I had my shutter speed set in sports mode and managed to hold my telephoto lens still enough to get some pretty sweet shots. The most difficult part for me was anticipating the moves since I’m not all that familiar with football.

  5. Great post. The parent in me loves how those cheerleaders were dressed.

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    This is a great post! I am more of a people watcher, and I easily become distracted by things just as you mentioned… the leggings and shoes. I don’t know much about rules and regulations and the game itself can bore me fairly quickly. I find most of the time I just enjoy being with family, and I love taking my camera. It gives me something to focus on, and the kids love looking at photos of themselves. Parents like the photos too. Often they’re too busy watching the kids to think about getting shots. And, I always manage to get some hilarious shots of sideline activity that no one else noticed. Those are my favorite images!

    • Thank you. I’m a people watcher also, like you watching through my lens. If I would have had easier access in and out of bleachers, I would have gotten a wider range of images. But I was “locked” in the middle and my days of scrambling over bleachers are done.

  7. Sweet Posy Dreams Says:

    Enjoyed this post. My kids didn’t play school sports, so I feel like we missed out on that whole experience. How nice that you went to support your nephew. I really like football, but only watch college games.


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