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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Flag


Chris Koetting drug his computer mouse down the menu projected on the large screen attached to the wall in the coaches' meeting room. It is 7 pm on Wednesday and the last long practice before the Panhandle game is in the books. “Let me see if I can find this play,” says Koetting.

When it comes to the latest in media technology in the world of high school football, Canadian High School is in the front of the line. Every game is filmed from two angles, from the line of scrimmage and from the end zone. Computer software the district has purchased then sorts each play so that a click of Koetting’s computer mouse will show the play back to  back from each angle. The coach has stated many times that the computer programs the Wildcats utilize are invaluable as he prepares his team for the weekly wars of Texas High School football.

“It is the time factor,” he relays. “With this program, we can have everything ready to go by Monday morning. We have the whole game plan for that week’s opponent, plus we have broken down our preivious game, graded each of our players on every play and go over that with the team on Monday.”

Koetting wants to show me one particular play from last year’s thrilling last second win over Albany in the state quarterfinals. “Here it is,” he says,” you are going to love this.” Canadian is driving to the red zone in a tie game. The Wildcats have reached Albany’s 20 yard line, but only 12 second remain in regulation time. Koetting decides to take one last shot at the end zone. If that fails, he will then send out his FG team.

Braden Hudson lays a perfect pass to the back left corner of the end zone where Canadian reciver Jacob Ramirez makes a game winning over the shoulder catch. Koetting is however not focusing on the clutch throw and catch. He barks, “watch the corner of the screen.”

As the official in the back of the end zone raises his arms to signal touchdown, a huge man, dressed in Canadian school colors, explodes from the darkness to the middle of the end zone, where he joins in with the on-field celebrating Wildcats. As he repeatedly leaps in the area - no small task for a man whose shoulders appear to be as wide as the goal posts - he triumphatally punches the air with both fists flying. “That,” said Koetting, “ is how I will always remember Kirk Morrow.”

The father of Wildcat star senior lineman, Ty Morrow, Kirk died in a car accident three weeks ago.
Morrow was a single parent raising two sons. His house became the favorite hangout for youngest son Ty and his friends. “If we wanted to know where our kids where,” one  parent told me, “we just drove by Kirk’s house.”

“It did help,” Ty says in a low voice, “that I got to the hospital to say goodbye. The nurses said he kept asking, ‘how far away are they.’ I think he was just hanging on, waiting for me to get there. His heart stopped five minutes after I got there.”

For the current group of Senior players, when they began with orgainazed football in the 5th grade, Kirk was their first coach. For many, he was a second father figure.

Two days after his death, a dispirited Canadian team lost on the road to Perryton, 33-32, on a last second field goal. Not playing the game was never even considered. Kirk would not have liked that, said Koetting. The next day, an emotionally spent Canadian team buried Kirk Morrow.

Ty admits that everything has yet to set in, admitting he still to some degree is in denial. “It is the little things,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “My uncle lives in San Angelo and he called me at lunch today to say he had talked to the coach at Angelo State and they really liked the film on me that Coach Koetting sent them. I was really excited. The first thing I thought was, ‘I got to call me Dad and tell him.”

The low point for Ty, he says, was after the Perryton game and the night before his dad’s funeral.  “My teammates were crushed after we lost that game. They felt like they had let Dad down, that they didn’t honor him as they should have because we lost. My Uncle Dave came into talk to the team and he told us not to let my Dad’s death be a burden we had to live up to, but an inspiration to be the best team we can be, win or lose. That helped.”

Morrow says that football has been a great release for him and he is grateful that the community has shown such a great out pouring of support. “I couldn’t go on without all the help,” he says.

The players have dedicated the remainder of the season to Kirk Morrow’s memory. They wear his name printed under their game jerseys. “Even winning a state championship is not going to bring my Dad back,” says Ty. “But we all want to show him that he has inspired us to play as hard as we can. That is all he would ask, if he was here.

One of Kirk Morrow’s favorite duties was carrying the Canadian Wildcat flag for pre-game introductions. As the team lined up, ready to storm the field, Morrow would  hand over the flag to a captain, to carry into battle. The day of the Perryton game, that same flag had to be retrieved from Kirk Morrow’s mangled pickup truck.

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