Glenwood continues helmet ritual
It’s one of the truly special rituals I’ve ever seen in high school sports.
It oozes with emotion and sentiment, leaving grown men — former football players — on the verge of tears.
With a cold rain still drizzling from the sky, Glenwood Springs head coach Rocky Whitworth talked to his team after the heartbreaking 13-9 playoff loss to Delta on Saturday.
Then the team broke away to be consoled after the toughest loss of their lives and congratulated on a great season.
Whitworth then gathers the seniors and pulls them away from the crowd. Nine young men standing near midfield, hurting. Their uniforms filthy, their eyes red, their faces streaked with the tears of disappointment.
They gathered around the their coach.
Then he instructs them to put their helmets back on. The nine tug on the red helmet with Glenwood “G” and they look around the field that gave them so many memories.
That view from behind a face mask is a view that only football players know. It’s a view that few will ever experience after they leave high school. After a minute, they form a tight circle, remove those helmets and raise them together. “SENIORS!”
It’s a subdued cheer.
Then they drift into the arms of family and friends, heads down, shoulders slumped.
The Demons came up two yards short of getting to play another game. Two yards short of pulling that helmet on again, to strap on those shoulder pads again, to lace up those cleats one more time.
Whitworth strolled to the locker room, the disappointment of a team, a coaching staff and hundreds of fans carried in his slumped shoulders.
“It’s bitter. It is a bitter one,” he says about the loss. He calls it one of the toughest of his career, which includes coaching two state title teams.
Whitworth has been through many battles as a football coach and many years ago as a player. He started the senior tradition many years ago. He said every year it’s special.
“It gets my heart because there’s a lot you put into it and as a team sport it’s all about each other, it always is in football,” he says.
Every senior class is special, but this year’s group held an 0-3 team together.
“This year’s seniors were really special because they drug us out of the depths. We were all but forgotten,” Whitworth says. “Winning eight in a row is about their leadership.
“Getting them together and having them put on their helmets one more time, I just wanted them to make a memory.”
One last memory from inside the Glenwood Demons’ helmet.
Whitworth is sentimental, there’s no doubt. He coaches for the kids. That’s the reason all great high school coaches coach.
“I just had them look around one last time and it was their home field,” he smiles, a strained smile. “And that field has the blood and sweat of a lot of Glenwood Demons.”
Senior lineman and linebacker Garrett Lowe played like demon on Saturday.
He struggled to find the words after coming up two yards short of moving on.
“I still remember my freshman year and I couldn’t put myself in the seniors’ position,” he says, wiping tears from his eyes. “It’s been setting in as the season went on and I can’t believe I’m a senior and now it’s over.”
He made one last memory inside his Glenwood Demon helmet.
Senior Henry Hill carried the ball 35 times on Saturday. He was the logical guy to try to tote it the final two yards with the game on the line.
But Delta won that battle.
“I loved playing with my brothers. Laying there two yards away from playing again is a tough thing,” Hill says, his voice cracking. “I’m so proud of my teammates.”
He made one last memory inside his Glenwood helmet.
One by one, the seniors left the field, some lingering as long as possible, remembering the good times and agonizing about those two yards that Delta denied them.
Whitworth has seen many season’s come to an end but maybe none as suddenly as this one.
Playoff football always ends abruptly for one team and continues for the other.
But Whitworth knows that his players had a great season and made a ton of memories.
“Football is a young man’s sport,” he says with another faint smile.
Most of those Glenwood seniors will never enjoy the feel of that helmet again, never relish the view through a face mask again.
Their high school football careers are over.
A coach that had them make one last football memory from inside their helmets.
A memorable season that came to an end too soon and two yards short.