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Reaching the end zone

Football season wraps up with four years of teamwork, common goals for parents and players

Football season wraps up with four years of teamwork, common goals for parents and players

November 11, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

WILLIAMSPORT - Seconds remained for the Williamsport Wildcats, who had one last chance to score against the undefeated Smithsburg Leopards.

The Wildcats were strides away from the end zone. Smithsburg was winning 33-0.

It was the last home game of Williamsport's season, the last chance the senior players had to score on their home field. The game was almost over. Williamsport had the ball.

It would mean a lot to the team if they scored, said football dad Chris Russo from the stands, moments before the snap. Russo is the father of Nathan Russo, a senior who is a linebacker.

Meanwhile across the bleachers, Kenny and Rayetta Cunningham - parents of Kyle Cunningham, a fullback who now had the ball - sat among a colony of football parents beneath the press box. All eyes were on the field. Time was running out.

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The field looked like a mess of jerseys along the end zone.

"Touchdown!" the announcer proclaimed.

The crowd erupted, as though Williamsport had won a championship.

The final touchdown of the game, which made the score 33-6, provided parents a good release for a game that was hard to watch - not because Williamsport, which entered the game 3-5, was on the verge of being shut out, and not because the coldness in the night air had numbed fingertips, toes and knuckles.

For the parents of the seniors, the game symbolized the beginning of the end, the realization that their boys were young men who would soon be off on their own.

"I can't believe it's been four years," said Kenny Cunningham.

"It went by too fast," said his wife, Rayetta.

For four years, a contingent of parents from Williamsport High School were united by the same cause: supporting Wildcats football.

They attend the home games, they formed convoys so that they can make the away games, and they raised money for the school's athletic booster club. On game night, moms lined the bleachers with blankets to take some of the chill off of the cold metal benches. They made dinner from the chicken strips and hamburgers served at the Williamsport concession stand, polishing it off with hot chocolate that they described as "always too hot." Many came to the games straight from work.

You can hear them blasting air horns, prodding the refs to keep their yellow flags to themselves, and screaming "Go, Wildcats!"

Up until this year, few had considered that it would all come to an end.

The remaining seconds of the Friday night game against Smithsburg made it all too clear that it would soon be over.

"It's been four years of football," said Cheryl Obitts, the mother of No. 79 Steve Richardson, 17. "He's graduating. It's the end of an era.

Cheryl Obitts and her husband, Don, had a harder time watching the game. Her son, who had played Wildcats football since he was a freshman, was injured. He too was watching the game from the sidelines.

Steve suffered a nonfootball related head injury when he fell of the back of his friend's truck about a week before the game, his mom said. Doctors told him he wouldn't be able to play in the last home game of the season.

"It was really emotional," Steve said. "It's the last time I'll play on this field. I expected it to be a little bit better."

At the time this Lifestyle section was preprinted Thursday night, he was expected to be ready for the team's last game of the season against Clear Spring High School on Friday, Cheryl Obitts said.

Senior athletes, cheerleaders and band members walked across the field with their parents before the game. Many of the parents tried not to get emotional before the game.

"It's sad because it's something he loves to do," said Susan Hart, the mother of Wildcats lineman senior Randy Hart.

"We've enjoyed watching him play," she said.

Kyle Cunningham, who would score the Wildcats' touchdown, said before the game that he wasn't looking forward to the last game.

"I'm going to miss it," Kyle said, just before kick-off, "coming out here every Friday night, playing the best game that could ever be played."

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