It’s not often Western Reserve coach Andy Hake is at a loss for words.
After Saturday night’s 14-10 loss to Glouster Trimble in the Division VII state semifinal, the Blue Devils’ fifth-year head coach sat slumped down in a chair just inside the home team’s locker room at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville.
Hake sat there looking at the ground just a few feet in front of him, but his thousand-mile stare said he was anywhere but there.
As he sat there, motionless, the Blue Devils players took off their equipment about as quietly as their offense had played for the 48 minutes prior. For the 11 seniors on the team, it would be the last time they ever took off that uniform.
Gathered outside the locker room were grandparents, parents, siblings, friends — anyone associated with Western Reserve High School — and there was hardly a dry eye to be found. Same could be said for inside the locker room.
One of the seniors, wideout and defensive back Danny Rosati, walked outside, still in uniform, and was greeted with a hug from two children. In the game, Rosati had three catches for 25 yards to lead the Blue Devils in receiving.
He knelt down between the children, posed for one last picture, and walked back inside the locker room — past a still speechless Hake.
For a man who appears to have more energy than most elementary school kids at recess — he’s known to dive in the snow with his team after games and even runs around the stadium to pump up the crowd — Hake was barely even blinking as he sat in the chair.
He may have been quiet then, but it was what he said just minutes after another heartbreaking loss in a state semifinal that speaks volumes to his, and Western Reserve’s, character.
As Hake stood and addressed his players on the field, as he does after every game, he looked them in the eyes and said, “I have never been more proud of a group of young men than I am with this group right here.
“Young men don’t always act mature and grown men don’t always act mature. Unfortunately that’s the way life is.”
What his brief message to his team was referring to were the actions of some associated with the Glouster Trimble football team as the players took their final kneel-down to end the game. These “adults” were decked in old Trimble football jerseys — presumably from their playing days however many decades ago — and sporting Mohawk hairstyles dyed in the school color red.
It’s understandable to show some excitement after your alma mater wins its biggest game in school history and advances to its first state title game. However what’s not understandable, or even acceptable, is for grown men to go running around the field yelling and screaming, leaping up and down, all while players of the other team — kids I’ll remind you — lay facedown on the ground next to you in defeat.
A rather heated Hake, who ran over to console his players, voiced his displeasure to, what appeared to be, a member of the Trimble coaching staff. That led to a few choice words from both parties, but it was those words that Hake used with his team just moments later that rang true.
It was also a reminder that sports can bring out the best and worst in people.
Actions always speak louder than words and perhaps the “adult” members of Trimble’s ‘Mohawk Mafia’ could use a reminder of that.
Unfortunately they missed a perfect example of it when the current Trimble players shook hands and hugged the Western Reserve players as they walked across midfield after the game.]
No, these “adults” were too busy acting like ... well, I’ll let you be the judge.