Last Friday night, on a cold, frigid night at Hopkins, we took the field against a perennial power, Eden Prairie, and approached it with every player and coach fully believing we would walk off the field victorious against the returning three-year state champs. In a battle that went to the end, our season concluded with a heartbreaking 13-7 loss against a team rated in the top twenty in the nation at this point and time. In front of a phenomenal crowd on a night with temperatures short of 10 degrees, the disappointment felt in the result only placed a mask on just how much pride this team has produced for many during their time here.
On a selfish note, this group of Seniors were incoming Freshman during my first season in Maple Grove, so I view them as a group that truly has seen everything that has gone on during my tenure here. A group of kids and parents that had to believe in everything new that was coming forth in the program, and had to take ownership to allow it to grow. I cannot thank all of those involved enough because they inspired me daily to keep pushing the envelope because they were who created the family and community that is now Crimson football. They solely sculpted our team as it is today because they were a group of young men that everyone around them could believe in, and more importantly they believed in each other and everything they represented. That was an honor for me to witness and they truly can view themselves as founding fathers of this program because they were the ones that set the standard for all those following to live up to. Words cannot express just how proud I am of every player, parent, and family member that had to sacrifice for a common cause, and hopefully as you walk out into the best parts of your lives, you feel every second was worthwhile.
As the game concluded and there were tears throughout filled with love and passion on that night, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of men that truly have transformed so much around them. Through all of the hours of ETS, summer, 7 on 7, youth involvement, and practices, they have built a bond and belonging with one another that truly cannot be broken. Even though the result was not what we wanted on Friday night, there was not one person that left that stadium believing that Maple Grove did not belong in the elite class of teams in the state of Minnesota this year, and for that our kids should always be proud. In their four years here, they have brought a belief to the football program and the school itself that we truly are an elite high school in the state and it is okay to go after something with high expectations and goals in mind.
Personally, I want to thank every single player, parent, community member, sponsor, administrator, and family member that have given their time, money, heart and soul to this football season, and I can guarantee you that you have a group of young men that do everything they can to provide you a product to be proud of. Seniors, in your last two years on the varsity, you accomplished a 20-3 record, two conference championships, two section championships, two trips to the state tournament, and a semifinal game that people will remember for a long time against a great opponent. But more importantly, you have created smiles, laughter, memories, belief, love and belonging for anybody associated with Maple Grove, and you handle yourselves in a way that evokes nothing but pride.
To our staff, thank you for all of your hours of sacrifice and love you have for each one of your boys, because that too was apparent as Hopkins’ field was littered with nothing but hugs between staff and players alike. It truly is something that everyone involved will miss, and that’s all I can ask for because that means it was worthwhile. That only happens when you have wonderful kids that are a joy to be around on a daily basis. We are blessed to have that, and there should not be a single player that has an ounce of regret because they gave all they had every second they were a Crimson. For those Sophomores and Juniors coming back for next year, the journey to keep getting better starts soon. You need to appreciate all that was done before you by this group to give the opportunities and goals you are reaching for during your upcoming years. The quote on the weight room wall says, “those who stay will be champions”, and even though the scoreboard Friday night did not dictate what we wanted, there was not one person that did not walk off that field a champion. I truly feel blessed knowing I had the chance to coach a bunch of young men that are going to flourish in so many ways down the road because they cherish how great it is to belong to something bigger than themselves and are willing to sacrifice for those they love. WE TRULY ARE CRIMSON. Be proud of all you accomplished, and even though there still are moments of sadness surrounding our final game, always know that you made an impact way greater than any scoreboard can read. You created a culture and standard for all those that follow, and you forever can be proud of how you transformed so many into believing they are great. I can never thank you enough for that, and I always will be grateful for every second I had to spend with all of you.
Congrats to all and GO CRIMSON!....Lomb