This week’s Mishawaka Memory presented by Celebrations Palace is only a week old. But it truly defines the finality a senior feels when a season comes to an end. The Mishawaka Cavemen lost in the Regional Championship against Valparaiso, putting an end to a fantastic 8-4 season. What some saw as a rebuilding year for the Cavemen, the team saw as an opportunity to win more championships. Coach Keith Kinder’s boys won “The Jug” against South Bend Adams, and despite injuries and moving up a class, they kept improving enough to win one of the best 5A Sectionals in the state of Indiana.
Monday night on Cavemen Corner, a weekly radio show on 96.1 FM in the Fall featuring Mishawaka Athletics, Coach Kinder talked with Director of Athletics Dean Huppert and “The Voice of the Cavemen,”,Sean Stires. He described some dramatic moments on the field long after the fans had left. It was just two players standing.
Here’s how what was said on 96.1 FM in a brief exchange with Coach Kinder:
Huppert: “Valpariaiso had to have been home by the time these guys left the field. And I’m not kidding. There’s still a couple of coaches here, but these guys (players) were still standing on the field and just talking. They had no concept of what time it was, but they did not want to leave the field. It was time to turn out the lights. The press box lights went out. Coach is coming out and it’s time, and the lights finally went off and they’re still out there and they came in and I know you talked with them, but that’s how much it meant to those kids that they didn’t want to leave the football field. And it’s so cool to see that passion and that love and that drive and they didn’t want to take the uniform off.”
Kinder: “There is something to that. Because I think once the uniform comes off, you become ordinary. There’s not many things you can do in your lifetime where thousands of people are going to cheer for you. And I think the finality of that…… I went grocery shopping yesterday and I told my wife, I feel like a normal person and I hate it. Because there’s nothing for me to do now. I’m grocery shopping like that guy. And I think that was the kind of thing that with Donnie and Ethan and those seniors, that you realize once your last game is over……. Nobody’s gonna come clap for me when I’m an accountant. Nobody’s going to cheer for me when I do my sales job. There’s something incredibly special about being an athlete, and then all of a sudden it’s over. And then now all of a sudden you have to become normal and there is a tough finality to it, and it takes you a little time to get over it.”
Mishawaka started a tradition last year that Coach Kinder participated in as a player at Jimtown. Hall of Fame Coach Bill Sharpe always had seniors form a line in the endzone. Mishawaka now continues that tradition as the coaches, managers and underclassmen all come up to the kids and give them their final words on the field. For some it’s laughter, for others, it’s tears. The process emphasizes how important family is, and to appreciate every person and the role they have on the team.
The season may be over, but this is just the beginning for the seniors that played for Mishawaka football. The lessons they learned through education based athletics will stay with them for the rest of their lives. There is something special about being an athlete. Normal will never be a word that describes the experience of putting on a Cavemen uniform.
Thank you to all who made Friday night’s in the Fall so special at Steele Stadium. The workers, ticket team, administration, PTA concessions, Band, security, trainers, teachers, statisticians, film crew, students, Mishawaka Network, 96.1 FM, custodians, Mishawaka Football Touchdown Club, Cavemen Corner staff, fans, cheerleaders, parking attendants, press box workers, sideline crews, Game day operations, officials, Future Cavemen, team, coaches, media, managers and many others….. We made memories in 2019 and we’re glad our seniors appreciate being able to represent their school.