Archive for May, 2011

Football is more than just a sport, especially in the small town of Lakefield, Texas, it’s an upbringing; a way of life that has been the lulling trend since the small town of 4,500 was founded for it’s oil reserves in 1909. Once just a giant plot of land used as public property for Midland County, the Mustangs now holds six state championships, 13 ex and current NFL football players, and one overzealous community.

The cookie-cutter, traditional Lakefield family consisted of a father slaving away at the scorching reserves, putting away 10-12 work hours a day, while the mother stayed at home, keeping everyone and everything in check. Their would be a son who either played football or a son that wanted out of the town and the daughter would be worked up in either cheerleading, the school drama, or student council. Some call the lifestyle monotonous and unexciting, others would call it simple and pleasant.

One standout in the Lakefield football hotbed is the Mustangs’ junior quarterback, Zach Tempsen. A prodigy since the day he could throw a spiral, Tempsen had always been an avid follower of Lakefield football, dreaming of the day he could dawn the crimson red and midnight black on his jersey. The only game Zach had missed was when he was four years old in ’97, the day his sister Sarah, now a Mustang cheerleader, was born. That was the year the Mustangs missed the playoffs by one game.

Tempsen had been fielding scholarship offers since the day he stepped foot on Towne Square Field, Lakefield’s varsity stadium, as a freshman in ’08. The stereotypical build- 6’2”, 210 lbs, a cannon of an arm with a mind of a field general, complimented by the intangibles of a father’s dream date for his daughter- charming, respectful, and most importantly, a strong demeanor. Even with Tempsen’s nose stuck in the playbook and not the textbooks, there was every reason for big name scouts to be drooling over QB1 of the Lakefield Mustangs.

It was a small town like Lakefield that had treated Zach like a big name celebrity. Burgers and drinks were free, girls came by the numbers, and autographs were treated of holy significance. But if there was one person keeping the feet of Zach on the ground, it was his father, Joe, that did not let his son’s super-stardom presence get to his head. Coming from a military family and a current sergeant at the local military base , Joe had taught his son the concepts of “keeping the eye on the prize”, humility, respect, and responsibility.  Joe supported his son like any proud father would, but there was a “glitch” in the Tempsen family-they weren’t the typical Lakefield parents to breath down their son’s back, expecting the unexpected out of him.

The reason for Lakefield’s preseason hype was not from just Zach, but junior running back Jamar Windsor- Zach’s best friend since grade school, a sidekick that always had his back. With Windsor’s blazing speed and robotic build, it looked like an All-Pro back in the backfield, but with character issues from a broken family and grades that didn’t impress even the local community colleges, Jamar had his work cut out for him. But with these two anchoring the helm of the Mustang offense, the world was at their feet.

And the brains behind the Mustangs? That would be Coach Bill Stamford, a Texas native who had recently moved to Lakefield in search of a coaching job, yearning to mold the minds of young student athletes. Coach, as players and residents alike had called him, was not one to buy into the whole “football-centered” town model, but rather asking his players to give back to the town that consistently gave to them, a major reason why he and Zach had clicked from the get-go.

All seemed ideal in the small “utopia” of Lakefield, except for one thing- the residents themselves. As radical as evangelical Christians, the townspeople rallied around their football team at all costs, and voiced their opinion by any means. One day a player can be the hero of the town, while in the blink of an eye and a careless fumble that costed the game, he would be the local punching bag-taking vicious vocal jabs while clearing off “For Sale” signs in front of his house. External pressure was always an obstacle players had to cope with while social status and representation being a bittersweet privledge.

Friday nights were like national holidays- stores and local businesses shut down while families made the pilgrimage to Towne Square Field and enjoying the one common interest all 4,500 of them had- high school football. The breezy, sub 70 degree Texas weather at dusk with the buzzing roar of the home crowd became a niche for Lakefield players. That jittery feeling was almost calming-they knew they were home.

Local radio broadcasters and newspapers were already stirring up a commotion about the opening game to the 2011 season- the nationally-televised rivalry game between Lakefield and their crosstown foes, the Riggington Cowboys, a team glamorized for their hard-nosed, impenetrable defense with two pre-season All-American seniors holding down the line. Coach Stamford tried to downplay the hype and maintain the daily focus of practice and drills, but it’s all Zach could think of. Essentially a national showcase for the public to truly see what the junior quarterback was all about, Zach couldn’t sleep with the idea of being the main target of attention outside of Lakefield.

There was no time or place to choke and with the decorated pride at stake, Zach wasn’t about to let himself, his family, or his town down. In a routine throw-and-catch drill with his receivers Thursday afternoon, that same Thursday before “the big game”, Zach tweaked his throwing shoulder on a skinny route pass to his main receiver- Glenn Daly-but brushed it off as if it didnt’ happen. He had a bigger picture to worry about, and something as small as a tweak wasn’t about to bring down the quarterback the night before the biggest game of his life.

Stay tuned for Part II in the near future

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