As I walked toward the Monument Mountain campus on Friday I didn't need the reminder. Like everyone else who was alive at the time — I remember exactly where I was.
I could hear Bruce Springsteen getting louder and louder as I approached the football field and there it was on the scoreboard — Sept. 11, 2001.
"I remember right where I was and my wife was pregnant with our son," said Brian Mead, who has nearly 28 years of experience at the Great Barrington Fire Department and is also an EMT at Monument Mountain sporting events. "It was a time where you question everything and if this was the right time to start and raise a family."
There was a moment of silence before the game between Lee and Monument Mountain. Great Barrington Police Officers and Firefighters were in attendance for the tribute, along with a man named John Morris, a firefighter from the Bronx who was on Ladder 27. We'll never forget, but if you need any type of reminder of the destruction that still impacts this country 20 years later — I urge you to read this column from the Baltimore Sun featuring Morris nearly 20 years ago.
The thing is, though, not only are just we remembering. Twenty years later, both Lee and Monument Mountain roster football teams full of athletes who don't know a pre-9/11 America.
"It is a difficult thing to do," Mead said of explaining 9/11 to his kids, "[my kids] have never known a time where we weren't at war."
As time drifts further and further away from that day, we are no longer just remembering — the next generation is learning and growing in the aftermath. Friday night in Dalton, Wahconah marched onto the field with 13 players holding 13 American flags for 13 soldiers who were recently killed in Afghanistan.
"It was student-driven. Our kids have a lot of pride in family and community, and they have connections to the military here quite a bit," Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said to reporters on Friday night. "I think you saw that come out. They came to me this week and asked if they could do that. To think about what we've gone through over there, 9/11 was 20 years ago, but 20 years of war. Not only those 13, but how many troops have died over there. Our kids think about the news and listen to the news more than people understand, and they get it. Especially if they have family members in the service."
From Monument and Wahconah to McCann Tech on Saturday (my apologies if I am missing anyone), local athletes, coaches and athletic directors deserve all the credit in the world for navigating the hardest day on the calendar.
All that and a bag of chips
Those who attended or watched Wahconah vs. Pittsfield truly had their cake and ate it too.
Not only did the Warriors and Generals combine to score 44 points in the first quarter — more in 12 minutes than the total points scored in four of the other five games featuring Berkshire County teams — but it quickly turned into a defensive battle.
It is interesting to see the early-season dynamic of big-time players who not only make opponents pay for mistakes but also tag a devastating interest rate to it. The arrival of playmakers like Davon Solomon, Louis Rhodes and Owen Salvatore will shift gameplans for the remainder of the fall. It is even more interesting when teams settle down and the chess match ensues, much like the Warriors and Generals combining for 20 points over the game's last 36 minutes.
Early season rivalry games?
Blame the storyteller in me, I entered this weekend a little surprised that games like Pittsfield vs. Wahconah and Lee vs. Monument weren't later in the season. Apparently, I wasn't the only one.
“We haven’t played this game since 2018,” Lee coach Keith Thomson said following Friday's game against the Spartans. “It is very interesting to get back out here. We’re excited and it is kind of strange to be honest, this is usually one of the last games of the season, not the first, but it was a great win to get and move forward.”
Something about Berkshire County rivals battling on a blanket of snow just seems right when living in Massachusetts. Keep in mind, this isn't a shot at schedule creators, I know that stuff isn't easy. Additionally, some of the coaches actually preferred the early season challenge.
“It’s an experience thing," PHS coach Brian Jezewski said in an interview with The Eagle on Friday night. "Some of the younger guys getting in there in a varsity game against a program like Wahconah. This is a good thing for our program.”
Wahconah and Pittsfield had played each other just 140 days prior during the Fall II season, on that same field at Wahconah. Nothing breeds rivalry like proximity and regularity.
"They were really going quick in that first quarter. We kind of were able to slow it down toward the end," said Wahconah lineman David Striebel, who remembered trying to haul down QB Patrick Rindfuss before. "We made adjustments as the game went on. It really helped playing them in the spring, because it was so recent. We used what we knew and got it done."
This and that
Let me start by saying thanks if you made it this far. The opening weekend of Berkshire County football was circled on the calendar for months — and it was gone in less than 48 hours.
By now you've noticed how our approach to covering football has changed, with this column wrapping up some of my thoughts after watching, or reading about, all the games. I encourage comments about how we can continue to make our section stronger with the digital tools available at The Eagle.
Keep those thoughts and ideas coming — please keep them constructive — as we continue to mold not only football coverage, but a sports section that reflects the incredible stories this community has to offer.
Lastly, the Dolphins guy who wore his gear all weekend wants to say thank you all for keeping the banter fun. Let's all hope 2021 is when we can start turning the page on that Bill Belichick guy and crown Brian Flores as the top coach in the AFC East.