The champions sat almost stoically across the Central Catholic High School gymnasium from their roaring, stomping fans last night.
These young men, Central Catholic's football team, winners of the Division II state championship, watched the fuss intently, with only an occasional smile, almost as though they didn't quite know how to respond to all the congratulations.
When teammates Lee Marquette and Kevin Boyle led the bouncing scarlet-and-gray pep-rally crowd of students, parents, faculty, and alumni in singing the alma mater, the team stood up, put arms around the shoulders of their brothers, and swayed, only becoming audible when the song reached the part where everyone claps.
The champions finally got animated:
It was only then that some players stood in the bleachers and boogied to "Your Mama Don't Dance" blaring over the loudspeakers.
Folks with cameras rushed toward the players, and the rows of young men crushed forward, crowding, leaning as one toward the photographers, as though they could all get their faces in a single snapshot.
Then, with the synchronicity of choreography, they let themselves tip and topple, falling like dominos onto the folks in the bottom row, until they were a sea of scarlet and gray backs.
As they picked their teammates up, they began to file out, talking to buddies, laughing, waving.
It was like a party no one wanted to leave. An hour of congratulatory speeches, and the gymnasium still bounced with scarlet and gray.
Judy Brown and her mother, Julia Hanna, felt it, too. Ms. Brown's son is Central player Ryan Brown.
"He's the greatest, my grandson," Mrs. Hanna said. Both mother and daughter were in scarlet and gray right down to Mrs. Hanna's red boots and earrings.
"Aren't you proud of us?" Mrs. Hanna asked. "We're euphoric," Mrs. Brown said.
Jennifer Starkey, whose son Michael plays on the offensive line, rushed up to greet the other mom.
"My son was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically [Friday] night," she said. "I don't think it's sunk in just yet. They're overwhelmed by all the attention."
Contact Jenni Laidman at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6507.