Blue Valley coach Allen Terrell stood in a locker room at Bishop Miege late Friday afternoon, steeled his jitters with an inhale and launched into his first pregame speech of the season.
It was his first as the leader of this football team, and he wanted his Blue Valley players to remember one thing: They are pros when it comes to dealing with adversity.
“We’ve done the adversity thing, right?” Terrell said. “We’ve done the adversity thing and you guys got through it together. Now, let’s let that be the last talk about that tonight from us within here. … Let’s go leave it all on the field and you’ll have no regrets.”
Five months ago, Blue Valley was reeling. Eric Driskell, who coached at his alma mater for years before taking over the Tigers’ football program in 2010, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in February and died three days later. He was 43.
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The Tigers vowed never to use Driskell’s death as an excuse. They would honor his memory, of course, with “ED” stickers on their helmets and practice jerseys emblazoned with one of Driskell’s favorite lines: “Live like champions.” That slogan was even printed on T-shirts that coaches on both sidelines — and at high schools across the metro area — wore.
The Tigers would maintain Driskell’s culture, which Terrell promised to maintain when he was promoted in Driskell’s absence.
They would play their brand of football.
But when they arrived at Bishop Miege’s Dixon Doll Stadium to open the 2017 season against the defending Class 4A champions, the lack of experience on Blue Valley’s squad was evident. Miege bowled Blue Valley over 55-10, holding the Class 6A team scoreless until it could get Jackson Likens close enough for a field goal with 7:31 remaining in the first half.
Blue Valley’s best moment came when two-way junior Alex Totta intercepted Miege’s Carter Putz around midfield with 7 minutes remaining in the game.
Totta then barreled through Miege’s defense and carried Blue Valley inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, senior Justin Schoenfield rushed 2 yards for Blue Valley’s first touchdown of the season.
The score wouldn’t make a difference.
“We just couldn’t find that groove,” Totta said.
And the new era at Blue Valley began the way Terrell foreshadowed in the locker room — with adversity.
“We’re not going to just talk about that every week,” Terrell said. “People are going to do enough of that outside. You expect them to because of how great of a person Eric was. But we’re not going to rely on that as a crutch. I’m not as good of a head coach as he was, yet. I’ll work on it and get better. He was phenomenal, hall of fame type head coach. And we’re not as good players as we were at the end of last season, but we’ll get better and work hard to get there.
“The pressure tonight was from Miege and they did it well. They were sharp. They made some big plays and we didn’t. They’ve got some really talented kids.”