I've said it many times over the past 5-6 years: Mason & Eric love football.
And there's nothing greater as a parent than watching your kid do what they love, and do it well.
Mason is starting quarterback for our school's varsity this year. Practicing with the team all summer coming out of 8th grade, and just entering 9th, he's young.
There was a write up including him in our area paper going into the first week of play.
Young Mason Watkins, there is a lot sitting on your shoulders this fall.
“He’s a ninth grader,” said Head Coach. “Not a very big kid, but he’s got the heart of a lion, and he’s going to be, hopefully, a starting quarterback for us for four years. I think this kid’s got all the talent in the world, and I look forward to watching him grow as a quarterback in this league for years to come.”
As it continued, the main theme or message of the article was "pressure."
The thing about Mason is that his mind is clear & sharp when he's playing. It doesn't seem to matter if it's in someone's backyard or as a junior high kid against a team of giants, or under the lights of a varsity game being announced over a loud speaker.
He's un-phased by pressure. He just loves the game.
No matter how many big guys are running him down, he never stops looking down field for an opportunity. He has come through on huge plays & completions, many times, while running for his life. (That phrase has been used a lot this year.)
The highlight of their first varsity start for me was Mason firing a 47 yard (in the air) pass down field into the hands of Eric, who made a great over the shoulder catch on the run in double coverage.
It's always special to get to see them do that. Like so many others, a great memory.
They did the same in the 2nd game. And in their third game, the team achieved their first varsity win.
Eric has done a tremendous job as a defensive player.
He's had great plays on the kickoff return team, most exciting - an 85 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He's got speed & skills. While apparently his coaches have felt he's needed more defensively than offensively, he's had some outstanding receptions. He is Mason's greatest receiver. As Mitch pointed out, Mason has thrown that ball to him so many times all their lives, he can read his body language & know which way he's going to turn - all Eric has to do is run & get open any way he can. I've learned that routes & running & not stopping are very important. As twins brothers, they know each other very, very well. It's special.
No exaggeration due to the fact that they're my sons: They're really good at the game, physically & mentally. We've heard high praise not just from our own coaches, but coaches all around our conference. At fourteen years old, their level of play has serious potential.
If anything, I'm guilty of downplaying things. In all honesty, we've had people tell us these kids might make them famous. To get to continue with something they love so much would be awesome, but right now all I want is for them to have fun & stay healthy during their years as kids.
I've learned a lot of things watching them on & off the field these past 5-6 years. Hearing football talk non-stop in the car & in our house. Listening to coaches & parents. Asking questions, taking photos, studying footage, and cheering them on.
I have learned that football is such a intensely TEAM sport. As a football expert friend told me years ago, he believes it is the ultimate team sport, because every player in every position (and the coaches calling the plays, too) has to do their part in order for a play to execute correctly.
I've learned that size isn't an indicating factor to strength.
Determination & passion & tenacity & skill are far greater than size.
Truthfully, many of the things I'm learning take up a good portion of my thoughts each day. I've had an archive of them growing in my mind.
As I've confessed in the past, my kids have turned me into a sports mom.
I may as well share what I learn. I'm going to start working on it.
As the season has progressed, I've watched our boys play, some nights with butterflies in my stomach, always with great pride.
Just over two weeks ago at an away game, Eric took to the sidelines quickly after a kick return play (without pause or delay on the ground for a second, we never even knew he was hurt.)
The toughest lesson of all that I've learned is that sometimes doing what they love gets them injured.
Here is the x-ray of his right clavicle, broken in half.
Oh, how I feel for him.
The joy of watching your kids do what they love is equaled by the regret of seeing them unable to do what they love.
I think being on the sidelines the final games of the season & into post-season play has hurt more for Eric more than that broken bone.
Their are two upsides to Eric's injury. The first, as pointed out by our doctor, is that in his x-ray we can see his growth plate is still visibly open in his arms, which indicates the same in his legs, which means he's not done growing. (Our doctor felt bad, and was reaching for an upside here.)
The second, is that in his absence on the field, Mason has had to fill in the open position on defense.
And in doing so, he said to his coaches, "You've got me on defense now, so I've got something to say..." He pointed out that they have blitzed too much all season, and it's been ugly. Our defensive line has been non-productive, in the backfield when the ball is going the other way. The line was giving up first downs on nearly every play. Eric, back at corner, was picking up tackle after brutal, full-speed-momentum tackle. (Those would have now been up to Mason to make.) Mason suggested they stop blitzing so much & wait to read the play so they could take part in it & make some stops. I guess as their quarterback, whom they're trying to protect, they listened to him.
This is what the defensive coach told us happened, and we've witnessed enormous change.
Since Mason stepped up to the coaches about their strategy, his team has held their opponents scoreless for 9 consecutive quarters. Quite a significant turn-around on the season.
It's such a regret, Eric missing out on the late season.
We're told daily how badly he's needed.
Right now we're focused on his recovery, hoping he'll be 100% in time for the start of basketball. We return for x-rays tomorrow to see how his healing is progressing.
And then we hit the field again to root for our team in their first play off game!