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November 01, 1991 - Image 59

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

High school football is serious stuff.

"There are so many
reasons why we lost last
night," he said. "You guys
know what you have to do."
He talked about football.
He talked about why young
men play football.
"Get your heads right.
Come Monday, we're going
to get this thing ready to
go."
This thing is the team. He
knows his players aren't go-
ing to Division I college pro-
grams. But he demands
teamwork. And mostly, he
gets it.
"You don't just play for
championships," he said.
"As long as they scrape me
off the field when it's all
over, that's all I ask."
Joe Brandell was trained
to be a coach in America's
football heartland. In places
like Shreveport, Louisiana,
and Copperas Cove, Texas,
he learned about running
practices and leading
players.
It is such an obsession, he
says, "I gotta update the pic-
ture on my fridge so my girl
doesn't forget what I look
like."
Come Monday, the first
day of the weekly practice
cycle, Coach Brandell wants
the players to focus on the
memory of the Lahser game.
• "Guys," Coach Brandell
says, a wisp of spittle on his
lips, "at halftime, I saw your
eyes and I absolutely did not
know what to say." His voice
trails away. "Your eyes took
me away.
"Your eyes didn't lie. It

was like somebody took a
balloon and squeezed the air
out of the thing."
The Lakers now had little
chance for a playoff bid. At
3-2, the team was considered
average.
"Now, this is for pride,"
Coach Brandell said. "We
still got a statement we got
to make."
"If you mess around, don't
come down to the field. I
want to walk off the field
satisfied at the end of the
season. And that's not just in
football, that's in life."
Before heading off, the
coach reminds his players,
"If I don't get it today, you're
wasting your time out there.
Practice today is as long as it
takes." On an average day,
Laker practice is a routine
cast from tradition and utili-
ty-
After airing out specialty
players — the kickers,
punters, long-snappers,
quarterbacks — the team
forms five lateral lines, with
players evenly spaced.
They clap in unison, to the
beat of Queen's "We Will
Rock You," then another
beat, then another. Five
team captains lead flexing,
each taking turns barking
orders.
After stretching, groups of
players practice their spe-
cialties. The running backs
group with the linebackers
to practice the running
game. In a full-contact prac-
tice, somebody isn't going to
be feeling well.
Mario McKinley, the

Photos by Glenn Triest

Especially if you want to win.

team's middle linebacker
and starting fullback, enjoys
hitting. Off the field, he is
soft-spoken, smart and
friendly.
On the field, he is the
"hardest hitter I've ever
seen in high school football,"
said Randy Wertheimer,
West Bloomfield's career re-
ceiving leader and now a
freshman at Eastern Mich-
igan.
Today, they've brought up
sophomore Brian Hillman
from the junior varsity
squad. Some of his new
teammates call him "fresh
meat." To McKinley, he
might as well be.
Even in practice,
McKinley's eyes belie the in-
tensity of a hunter. He
waits, waits, waits, staying
in the middle of the line.
When he reads the play, he
runs down the ball-carrier
and floors him.
On the sidelines, the
linemen are nursing the
wounds of what should be a
friendly, routine practice.
It's a dirty job in the tren-
ches, far from the glory of
the winning touchdown run.
It's drive off the snap, push,
push, push, and release.
Over and over again.
"The main thing I try to
remember is to stay low, hit
my man, and keep driving
my feet," said Khal Dawood,
a lineman who plays both
offense and defense.
On game day, everything
upshifts. There are review
sessions. The players are
more intense. So are the
coaches.
"This is the worst part of
my week, when you can't do
a thing," Coach Brandell
said, leaning back in a desk
chair in the coaches' room.

On the field, the stretching
is more vocal, more deter-
mined. The Laker uniforms
are snow white, and the
bleachers are starting to fill
with family and friends.
Girls with pine green wool
varsity jackets are standing
to keep warm.
It's homecoming, so the
crowd is a bit fuller than
usual. The night chill is
sending everyone to get hot
cocoa at the concessions
booth.
It's time to show off for the
girlfriends, the parents, the
buddies.
"You live for Fridays,"
said Todd Levin. "But you
hate the rest of the week."
The field is a little muddy
from last night's rain, but
the players don't mind. Soft
turf means soft landings.
The team gathers in the
locker room for Coach
Brandell's last speech before
the game.
The players get into it.
Adam Ellis, a wide receiver,

Assistant Coach Rick
Mickley goes over game
film with Mike
Sposita, Serouj
Basmajian and Brian
Porvin.

Left:
Khal Dawbod pushes
some weights.

Backup quarterback
Chris Montgomery
prepares to hand off.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

59

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