John Goodie: It's time for the Mesa Jackrabbits to "Carry On."
We believe, as the challenge was given on the last night of football training camp.
The Global Positioning System coordinates to Glendale were on our map called "Vision Quest Ring Ceremony." The hard-hat, blue-collar, lunch-pail-carrying group of wonderful young men were awakened at 1:30 a.m. to assemble at 2 a.m. in the dark, cool night under the skies in Snowflake.
The team began to walk around the track, led by Mesa High School football coach Kelley Moore, who spoke to create a picture of what the first game will sound, feel and smell like. The walk continued, with Moore periodically stopping and creating that picture for each regular season game.
There was something about the quiet, all the stars lined up, with some falling, that made that night special.
The team then headed over to the stands to paint the playoff picture. The stands have four sections, lending it to four playoff games. The lights were then turned on for each playoff game as Moore again talked about each one. This conversation included interaction with the players as the whole stadium was lit up. After the state championship game talk, the lights were turned off and the "ring" ceremony began, using a 22-cent "O ring." This joined the team together for eternity with other past players who still wear those rings.
Moore and assistant coaches John Shea, Mike and Tony Millances, David Brockmeier, Ray Rocha, Tommy Pace and Kenny Wantland talked about the symbolism of that ring and what it means as future leaders, husbands and teammates. At 4 a.m., the boys headed back to the gym to sleep, hopefully having matured through a physically, spiritually and mentally demanding training camp.
Former Mesa coach Bill McKane's "Champion Mountain" football camp in Snowflake has had a profound influence on the development and resurgence of Jackrabbits football, and we're so grateful. Yes, folks, many will describe Mesa's rise as a Cinderella or Rudy story. But I'll disagree as the old saying goes, "You go with what brought you."
Believing in each other. Before each game in the locker room we listen to that famous speech given by Al Pacino in the movie "Any Given Sunday" that talks about how football is a game of inches and how you must love your teammate and be willing to die for one another. Need I say more?
I'm only a volunteer assistant who has been on the Mesa sidelines for 15 years. My serious role in Mesa has always been about unity, bringing people together for Martin Luther King events, etc.
So I'm asking our sister schools - Mountain View, Red Mountain, Dobson, Skyline and Westwood - their current students and alumi to put the past rivalries on the back burner and join the thousands of Mesa High's students and fans at 5 p.m. Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium for the 5A-I state championship game against Chandler Hamilton High School. Most of you have relatives interred at the Mesa City Cemetery who in their youth were proud Jackrabbits. Yes, you are connected.
The last Mesa school to win a state football championship was Mountain View in 2002, and that school was the last to make a championship game, in 2006. The Mesa school district's athletic director, Steve Hogen, supports my plea, stating high school sports, especially football, means a great deal in Mesa, and it should be exciting for our entire community.
The Jackrabbits have "paid the cost to be the boss."
We believed and reached that mountaintop and need your support as we prepare to dethrone those Hamilton Huskies. Sorry, boys, you've been there too long. It's time for the Mesa Jackrabbits to "Carry On."
John Goodie of Gilbert volunteers for the Mesa High School football program, is a past chairman of Mesa's Martin Luther King Day Celebration Committee, and works full time as a Mesa parks ranger.