Through sheer coincidence this season, I saw both Nishnabotna's week nine football game at Stanton and its playoff volleyball game against Sidney. The last game of the season for both teams. I don't want to dwell on the negative, but on a personal level my heart hurts for a lot of people. Primarily the current students, but it goes so much deeper than that. Some of you haven't known me as long as others, but my Corner Conference timeline and Farragut intertwine like a braid. Instead of what's last, I would instead like to talk about an unusually large percentage of my Corner Conference firsts.
The first Corner Conference football game I ever saw was Stanton at Farragut in the first round of the state 8man playoffs in 2002. I had no frame of reference then so I didn't realize what I was seeing that day. Blair Holman, Mike Dreyer, Clay McGargill and Kevin Bugg. The Hackett Field Wrecking Crew. Knowing that I loved 8man football and had watched it for years in Nebraska, my wife suggested I check out an Iowa 8man game. I didn't even realize they played eights in Iowa at that time, but as my wife is really really smart and also from Iowa, I took her word for it and went to Farragut.
My first night on the job at the C.B. Nonpareil as a sportswriter in 2003, I did my very first short story on a Farragut volleyball win, transcribing the stats and comments sent in via email by head coach Dave Laumann. The first phone call I ever took was from Essex coach Denny Perry, but that’s a different story all together and much like most of our conversations would take much more time than I have right now.
The first football game I think of when someone asks what was the best high school game you have ever covered was Farragut vs. Walnut in the first round of the 2004 8man state football tournament. Jerry “The Anvil” Henstorf and Andy Carey led the Admirals back from three scores down in the second half to take a lead with under two minutes to go. We will just go ahead and forget the rest of that game. That's also the day I met Valley News reporter Kevin Slater for the first time.
The first time I ever went on a state tournament photo shoot to do interviews for the Nonpareil was when Farragut qualified for the 2005 state volleyball tournament. By this time I was handling most of the Corner Conference sportswriting for the Nonpareil. Most writers preferred the larger schools so it wasn't tough to put myself in that position. Everyone was happy. I also learned how to pronounce Fionnuala that day.
In 2007, with my reputation as a Corner Conference specialist established, the aforementioned Kevin Slater (who at met at a Farragut game) offered me a job at the Valley News covering the league with an emphasis on Essex, Sidney and of course Farragut. The first game I covered for the VN was Hamburg at Farragut in a game that was truly exciting. The Wildcats' Kaleb Kahue scored the winning touchdown for Hamburg on the very last play of the game.
When I covered Farragut football games I always spent a lot of time giving Quentin Heitshusen a hard time on the sidelines. He was helping compile stats that year and I made the job much tougher by hitting him with a steady barrage of relevant and irrelevant conversation. I talk a lot, and Q doesn't talk all that much so it worked out great. Eventually he invited me over to his house for a bonfire and beverage with his family after a game. It marked the first time I got invited to someones house in a Corner Conference town. He also called me a dumbass that night which is his way of saying he really does like you.
In 2011, I left the Valley News and launched SWISportsCorner, not necessarily in that order. A fully interactive news, photo and blog website dedicated completely to a conference, which is commonplace on the college level, but unique on the high school level (as far as I know). I've since been a guest at homes in other Corner towns, seen amazing games at other schools and met people in every town I consider to be friends. There are people I'm excited to see no matter what town I'm in.
But so many of the pivotal moments, the incidents that truly made me start to fall in love with the whole conference, involved Farragut. The school I lovingly call “The Gut.” I'm absolutely gutted (see what I did there) over recent events, but both the school and the town have affected me in a positive fashion. Without it, I may never have started this website. So for that I'm pretty grateful and if Farragut had a positive affect on a remote stranger like me, it must have been wonderful for everyone who attended.
I so wanted to close with something inspirational or witty, but I'm at a loss for words. I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry.