The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

October 27, 2012

A Bob Ettinger column: Tradition stampedes through Mustangs

ORWELL — The Grand Valley football team hosted Ledgemont for the Northeastern Athletic Conference championship. The league title, however, was only part of what was on the line last night at Grand Valley Stadium.

The Mustangs had reached the end of their season-long journey to step out of the shadows cast by one of the best senior classes to graduate from the school. They were also in position to cast their shadow on the classes to come.

“It’s a way to show the shadow that was cast (by last year’s seniors) is now cast by us,” junior lineman Glenn Zaller said. “We’re setting the stage for the classes to come. We want them to have to fill our shoes the way we had to fill the shoes of the guys from last year.

“They say tradition never graduates. We want that to happen. We want to set the stage for the classes to dominate after us.”

In that sense, Zaller hit upon something a little closer to first-year head coach John Glavickas’ year-long message to the Mustangs that tradition is important. All season, Glavickas has embraced the rich tradition of Grand Valley football and reached out to former members of the program to address the team on Friday nights.

The move has been well-received by members of the fraternity. On the field during pregame warmups were 1988 graduates Brian Snowberger and Jeff Takacs, ’98 grad Steve Smith and 2009 graduate Anthony Oscar. Also in the stadium were ’98 graduate Ralph Childs and countless others.

“I think it’s great (to be invited back),” Smith said. “(The current players) know we have their backs. The way they’ve embraced us this year has been terrific. I’m just very happy to know they’re winning again.”

“It definitely matters,” Snowberger said. “The idea is to motivate the kids, but it’s more than just them. Everyone wants to win the game.”

“It’s about motivation and tradition,” Takacs said. “(Glavickas) has spoken to them every Friday, before every game. This is tradition.”

The current Mustangs have whole-heartedly embraced the former Mustangs all season. Many of them made their way to shake hands with, pat the backs of and thank the former players before the contest.

“It’s great to have them back,” senior receiver Nathan Pilarczyk said. “One guy came back from Texas. We have know we have their support. And it’s not just them, it’s the community, too. They show us how rich the tradition is.”

“It means a lot to know they come back and show us support after we watched them when we were younger,” Zaller said. “Knowing they come back to celebrate the rich history of Grand Valley sets the example once again.”

And the current Mustangs understand what their own place in the tradition can be.

“This is our time and there’s someone out there who will embrace what we set going forward,” Zaller said.

In the moments before kickoff, Glavickas gathered his team for a few words on the subject.

“We’re very fortunate to have a few people in to build on what we’ve been talking about the whole season — tradition and being a part of the great tradition at Grand Valley.

“Whenever you think of Grand Valley football and the backfield, you don’t think about anybody else than these guys. Here’s Jeff Takacs and Brian Snowberger.”

Takacs addressed the team first

“Tonight is about the seniors. Find the switch and turn it on. Play football,” he shouted. “If I could, I’d put the pads on again and show you what it means every play. You guys, all of you, get her done.

“Get her done! Get it done!”

Snowberger got the blood pumping a bit in the locker room. He divided the room into two groups, offense and defense.

“Offense, if there’s one word to describe everything you do, what is it? It’s execute.

“Defense, what do you guys do? You destroy. You blow up the line, the running backs and the quarterback.”

Snowberger then asked the questions again, “Offense, what are you going to do?”

“Execute!” was the shouted reply.

“Defense, what are you going to do?” Snowberger asked.

“Destroy!” came back at him.

That’s when Snowberger pulled it all together.

“When you execute and destroy, what do you have?” he asked. “Victory!”

And Snowberger once again brought the Mustangs into the fold.

“Offense, what do you?” he asked again.

“Execute!” they responded.

“Defense, what do you do?” Snowberger queried.

“Destroy!” was the answer.

“When you put it all together, what do you get?” Snowberger asked.

“Victory!” the Mustangs shouted, ready to rush to the field.”

But Glavickas’ pregame address wasn’t done yet.

Long-time coach Ralph Turk took his turn.

“I’ve been around a long time,” Turk said. “Tradition isn’t about winning. It’s about playing the game. Our tradition is we go out and hit and hit and hit.

“I’ve seen a lot of good football teams here. You guys were nobodies last year. This team is 25 guys who love football. You’ve got to go out and stick them tonight!”

Glavickas tied it all up.

“When I first got the job in February, one of the first questions I was asked was why would I want to take this job. I was told we lost the best senior class since the ’90s. I was replacing a legend (Tom Henson). It was not just one person asking, it was numerous people.

“Plain and simple, I told the newspaper the cupboards here were not empty. All season, we’ve preached tradition and what it takes to win. There isn’t one person outside this locker room who believed you’d be 6-3. But every person and every coach believed we could get it done.”

Before he turned the Mustangs loose, Glavickas made a point of addressing what their role in the Grand Valley tradition could be.

“Tonight is about the seniors,” he said. “You can decide what your legacy will be. Will you be 6-4 or will you be champions?

“If you win a championship, you will become legends. Tonight, you become legends. They will talk about the team that wasn’t supposed to do anything and won a championship. Leave it all out on the field. There is no next week.

“When the game is over, be able to look a senior in the eye and say you did everything you could to send them out a champion. Coach Takacs summed it up. He’d give anything to be in your shoes. That’s what you dream about. It’s what kids dream about when they’re playing in the back yard. They dream about championships. Mr. Snowberger, lead us.”

Snowberger stepped to the center of the room and one more time as the Mustangs rose to their feet.

“Offense, what do you do?” Snowberger asked.

“Execute!” they replied.

Defense, what do you do?” he asked again.

“Destory!” was the response.

“What happens?” Snowberger asked a final time.

And as the Mustangs responded, they descended upon Snowberger with a rousing answer.           

“VICTORY!”

The Mustangs then stampeded off toward their collective destiny... final score, Grand Valley 21, Ledgemont 7.

“VICTORY!” indeed.         

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at bettinger@starbeacon.com.

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