You’d come to practice every day, get banged around for three hours, and then be a spectator on Friday night.
“It’s hard. You come out here and get hit in the mouth every day and you don’t get on the field Friday night,” DeLoach said on Thursday at the close of practice.
DeLoach doesn’t have to worry about that any more, of course.
He’s a fixture on the offensive line, and has been for the past few seasons.
DeLoach believes he is where he is now in part because of what he learned when he was just getting started with high-school football.
Even though he didn’t play as a freshman, he worked hard, he learned, and he listened to and took the advice of the team’s upperclassmen.
Now, DeLoach is one of the seniors, and he isn’t so far removed from being a freshman that he can’t remember what it was like.
“We just try to tell them the same thing,” DeLoach said. “Your time will come. You help the team how you can.”
Senior Josh Emery, like DeLoach a starter on the offensive line, said the key is to let the freshmen know how important they are to the team, even if they’re not getting their uniform dirty on a Friday night.
“You try to establish their role as scout players to help the team, to make us better, and at the same time making them better so they can one stay step into our shoes,” Emery said.
DeLoach and Emery are two of nine seniors on the Callaway football team, and they’re two of three seniors who have been with the program for four years.
The other is Michael Williams, a tight end and defensive lineman,
The remaining six seniors on the team joined the team at some point after their freshman seasons.
Head coach Pete Wiggins said he relies on each of the players to provide leadership on the field and off.
“Ultimately, I’ve said this many times, the best coaches on the field are the players,” Wiggins said. “So you look for their leadership from guys that have been around, and have been in the fire so to speak. They’re great for our program. They do a lot for us.”
In addition to three seniors that have been there since the get-go in 2009, the other seniors are running back and linebacker Kel Kyles, running back and defensive back Wilson Lindsey, safety and running back Cortez Leonard, offensive and defensive lineman Andrew Dodgen, offensive and defensive lineman Tae Robinson, and offensive and defensive lineman Robert Naranjo.
All nine of those players provide critical contributions, and they’re big reasons the Cavaliers are 9-1 and fresh off a Region 4-AAA championship heading into today’s state-playoff opener against Tatnall County.
“They’ve won a lot ballgames, and they’ve been through a lot of battles,” Wiggins said. “It’s not easy to come up here every day for three hours, and still get their (school) work done. There’s a lot of expectations on these kids, and I’m real proud of what they do.”
Williams said he knows the younger players are watching the seniors to see how hard they’re working, and that’s something he keeps in mind every day.
“We try to set an example for the younger people,” Williams said.
DeLoach said it’s not just about football, either.
He and the other seniors try to foster a family-type atmosphere on the team.
Part of that involves, when new players join the team, they’re welcomed liked old friends.
“We try to keep it a close-knit family over here,” DeLoach said. “You come in, we treat you like a brother. We love each other like a family.”
The team participates in a lot of activities together off the field, including frequent cookouts.
Those activities, Williams said, “help us bond as a team.”
Wiggins said he has enjoyed getting to know each of the seniors, and he’s hoping when they leave the team they’ll be better prepared to handle whatever life has to throw at them.
“We go through adversity every day as a team, as a family,” Wiggins said. “We talk about how, down the road, once these kids get out of high school, how this game helps to prepare them, to help them make good choices.
“Hopefully we can instill in them as coaches character and decision-making that will help them as soon as they get out of school, and once they get finished with football. There’ll be a time when football’s over at any level.”
Emery, whose post high-school journey isn’t far away, is grateful for what being a part of the football team has done for him.
“I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience of playing football,” Emery said. “It’s not just about the game of football, it’s about life lessons. It teaches you a lot. It teaches you mental toughness as well.”