Quantico, VA | October 25, 2012
After a winless season last year and, so far, another unbroken series of losses this season, few of the players on the Quantico Middle/High School football team remember the last time the team won a game.
Nonetheless, the Warriors can be seen taking the field every Friday at least as pumped up as their opponents. Even when they are hopelessly behind in the fourth quarter, the team members continue to rally for each play, often managing to convert fourth downs, keep their adversaries out of the end zone and give the crowd a show.
"I just play to make the guy across from me hurt tomorrow morning," said L.J., a lineman and a senior at the school, although he conceded that it’s not always the other player who’s in pain the next day.
In a way, this exemplifies the philosophy of the Warriors’ Coach Mike Green. There always has to be a purpose, a reason to continue to run, hit and struggle as hard as possible, he said. "When it gets to the point where the game is out of reach, you’ve still got to give it everything you have or you won’t turn into a successful team."
Green talks to the team about working toward a variety of goals, from long-term success to personal objectives, dedication to teammates and respect for the game. Giving up or slacking off are not options, he said. "There’s no place to hide on the football field. You can’t say ‘Uncle.’"
L.J. said he had a goal of getting at least one sack in every game, which he had kept as of Oct. 17, seven games into the season.
Anthony, a high school junior and fullback, said he had achieved his goal of breaking 100 yards in a single game when he ran 140 yards against Hampton Roads Academy in mid-September.
That game was both a highlight of the season and a frustration for the team, a contest in which the Warriors got off to a head start, racked up far more yards of offense and generally outplayed their opponents, only to lose by two points.
"They capitalized on our mistakes," Anthony said.
John, running back and senior, said his personal goal for the season is to again make the all-conference and all-state teams, as he did last year.
Green said John especially exemplifies the tenacity to keep fighting right up through the whistle, regardless of the odds against him, sometimes dragging opposing defenders for another few yards after most of the other team has stopped.
In this season’s Sept. 29 game against Randolph-Macon Academy, for example, John got hit by three defenders just after catching a pass 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a third-down play, Green said. With the help of six teammates, he fought his way to an unlikely first down. "At that point in the game, we were down 21 points at least, and we fought through and scored," he said.
Everyone involved in that play got an award for achievements in the field. This is another way Green keeps his players motivated. He gives individual and team awards for sacks, interceptions, gaining so many yards or making so many tackles. He keeps track of who leads in tackles, running yards and other feats each week, and he makes sure everyone knows who’s ahead.
"You’ve just got to admire these kids playing sports at Quantico, because they know, in most cases, they’re going to be outsized, out-muscled and outnumbered," said Lt. Col. Paul Roy, athletic director for Quantico Middle/High School.
Even in a league of small schools, Quantico is small, with about 60 boys in the high school grades, about a third of whom play on the football team. Eleven of the 30 team members are eighth-graders, and only two of the Warriors weigh more than 200 pounds.
The team often travels far to play against other teams in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, rather than going up against public schools with 2,000 students. Even so, Roy said, the teams Quantico plays keep their players for four years and build a team, while the Warriors’ lineup is in constant flux as Marine families come and go according to their duties.
"We don’t build a team, we just kind of reload," he said.
This is one reason few of the players remember the team’s 43-to-6 victory against Rappahannock County High School on Oct. 29, 2010, the Warriors’ last win. The team went 4 and 5 that year.
As recently as 2009, the Warriors have had strong winning seasons, but Roy said these are largely the result of windfalls of big, skilled players. Each year, he said, "it all depends on the transfers coming in."
The team’s record aside, Roy said, attending such a small school allows many players who might not make the team at a large public school to take the field on Friday nights.
"In the big picture, this is good for our military kids, that they can come here and do well on an academic level and also participate in three or four sports," he said.
While the coaches and directors push the players to push themselves, they also remind them that, more than their record, they’ll remember the fun and the people. "We tease them a little and try to find a sense of humor about it," Roy said.
John said there’s no difference between enjoying high school and pushing to win. "We have nothing to lose," he said. "This is our last season, so why not go all-out?"
"I think the whole team’s goal is to just win one game — one, at least," said Elias, a lineman in his junior year.
"I think it’s how we were raised," Anthony said. "Our dads are Marines, and they don’t ever give up."