Just another game

Ryan Pini, Photographer

On Saturday, Nov. 23, I made my second national semi-final appearance as a member of the Oakland University Football Club. We left Oakland in a convoy of 12-passenger vans on Friday, arriving later that day in Erie, Pennsylvania — known affectionately by members of the team as “the place where men are made.”

This nickname is owed mostly to the stakes involved with such a game, as the winner of this game would proceed on to the National Championship Bowl in Wheeling, West Virginia. (But it’s also attributed to the bitter weather and the blue-collar nature of the area.)

As I sat in the locker room before kickoff, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our season had its ups and downs, and coming off a national championship in the previous season, there was what felt like a certain expectation of what we could accomplish.

Football is like any other sport, in that everyone likes to make predictions and theorize what could and will happen. However, once the ball is kicked off, all bets go out the window.

The final score from Dollinger Field yielded a favorable result. The Golden Grizzlies topped the Sacred Heart Pioneers 26-14. As the clock hit zero, emotions ran high, and the time to look forward to a second consecutive trip to Wheeling had arrived. I immediately thought about what was to come, which was a rematch with Ohio State, whom we had fallen to earlier in the season. This time, a national title was going to be on the line.

As the final game of this 2019 football season closes in, I’m left with anxiety. The stakes are easily recognizable, and the opponent is a tough one. With lots on my mind, I went to the very people I looked up to for answers.

My first victim was Head Coach Chuck Saad, who was granted the head coach position halfway through camp in August.

“This was the biggest win in OU history as far as I’m concerned,” Saad said in reference to our win against Sacred Heart in the semi-finals. “They were prepared for us and were waiting for us, and we pounded them. I’m real proud of this team.”

Now, he’s looking ahead at our next opponent: Ohio State.

“I feel like we are not the same time that played them last time,” Saad said. “We’re going to go in there with a totally different attitude. We scheduled it early in the season thinking we were indestructible, and we found out we weren’t. Our kids have grown up a lot.”

I thanked Coach Chuck and continued out to the field to gather my things, where I ran into fifth-year senior, club president and captain Brett Jacobs.

“Oakland Club Football has defined my college career,” he said. “It’s been everything to me. It’s what I wake up to in the morning, and it’s the last thing I do every night, especially this week going into my third national championship in five years. It has come to really mean a lot to me.”

Now, he’s approaching the final game of his career.

“It’s just another game,” he said. “You just have to treat every game as another game, because when you treat it as more than it is, then it overwhelms you and you won’t be able to focus on what is very important — to win.”

Thanks to Brett and every other member of the football club, everything had been put into perspective for me. From here on out, every game I play in an Oakland jersey is just another game I get to play with my best friends in the entire world.