Inside the Huddle: Making Sense of the Stoughton High Football Team's Wild Season
In a season full of victory and joy and tragedy and one frustrating defeat, Stoughton High senior quarterback Dan Eckler says there is plenty to be thankful for as Stoughton heads into its final contest, the annual Thanksgiving game vs. Canton.
Editor's Note: Heading into his final high school football game this Thursday vs. Canton on Thanksgiving, Stoughton High senior quarterback Dan Eckler shares his thoughts on Stoughton's season. Eckler has been playing football for 11 years. As the starting quarterback this season, he has helped lead Stoughton to a 9-1 record.
There is no other way to describe this season other than comparing it to Hurricane Sandy that devastated the east coast a few weeks ago. From the outside looking in, all people can see is that we lost one of our brothers, and our season is going to end on Thanksgiving, only to reiterate the playoff curse that Stoughton seems to be doomed by. They may also see that one of our senior captains got hurt halfway through the season, and be quick to think that this season was nothing but a disappointment. However, just as Sandy has brought the nation together to provide relief, the individuals of this team have forever become a family, and the Wade family will also be a part of it.
Unlike most of the sports that are offered in high school, football is a year round sport, and Coach Burke truly believes this idea. At the time, waking up at 7 on a fine June morning seemed like the most evil, and dreadful act that Coach could have made us do. However, now I know what it takes to be a nine and one football team, and as Elbert Hubbard said,” the best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” Also over the summer, we competed at Xaverian Brothers High School in a two hand touch, seven on seven league that set the foundation for the unbelievable team chemistry that we have today. After over 10 years of Pop Warner and high school football with the same kids, the night of September 7th was the start of a journey that no one could have predicted.
That overwhelmingly humid night was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had in a football uniform. It was an easy night for me as we had over 200 yards on the ground and 3 rushing touchdowns. We then went on to win three huge games including a Fox 25 covered Mansfield game in which Frankie Morris scored four touchdowns. I will never forget the picture of Adam Leonard, Imani Pina, Mike Connelly and me after that monsoon of a football game [posted in media gallery]. That night we thought we were on top of the world, but then it all came crashing down.
The next day I heard about a police report of an accidental gunshot wound to a 17-year-old in Stoughton. The address was that of David Wade, but I thought it was a mistake, because there was no possible way it could have been him. As time went on though, I heard that indeed it was him, and he was in the hospital. It seemed like it was only seconds later that news got out that Dave had passed away. The squad decided that we would gather at the high school football field, and we could be a team there, and try to get a grasp of the situation. The dark night was filled with silence except for the sobbing of the friends I call teammates. Coach Burke made the long trip from his home to the field, and explained that we needed to be there for the Wades now, who are going through one of worst things that could ever happen to a family. The whole week is a blur to me now, as it was filled with so much emotion, and shock from the entire community. That Friday night before the Foxboro game I saw the grounds crew painting number 56 enclosed by a shield on the grass, and I knew that there was no possible way that we would lose that night. We went on to win 20 to 0, in honor of Dave. I remember the staggering amount of people that were there, and I was amazed at how such a tragic event can bring a community together to support the family through football.
The following week, North Attleboro was a back and forth game that we ultimately won in the fourth quarter, but we lost one of our senior leaders to an ankle injury (Adam Leonard), and that further devastated our team. At the time we were undefeated, and every time something awful had happened, we seemed to bounce back on the football field. The next week was Sharon, and I didn't think that a 16 to 14 loss would decide the fate of our entire season. Nonetheless, we won the next three games, and even came out with a victory against division 1 opponent Bridgewater-Raynham. The next day after our feat over the Trojans, Foxboro lost to Sharon, and that meant our season would end after the Thanksgiving game with Canton. Coach Burke also won coach of the year, which I was not surprised about at all in that the way he handled adversity, and kept us focused throughout the season helped every single one of us deal with our emotions.
As we go into Thanksgiving with a 9 and 1 record, I look beyond the fact that we do not have a chance at a playoff berth, and find that this season has meant a whole lot more than just football. I have developed friendships that I will maintain long past the years of high school. Also, I've had the pleasure of being around one of the nicest and strongest families I have ever met, even in the midst of a tragedy. This season has taught me that the individual commitment to a group is what makes a team, school and community work. This team is the greatest group I have ever been a part of, and probably will ever be a part of, and for that, I am thankful.