By Brendan Arnold ‘23
The Battle of Pulaski is hands down the biggest rivalry in the Chicago land area. Two teams from down the street bash in what is always a battle to the end. This game establishes which school is superior and bragging rights for years.
The preparation for this game began Monday morning – hopping into the shower and getting ready to block out all the distractions and noise ahead. At the beginning of every Monday practice, Coach Quedenfeld starts by preaching about the noise and distractions. This week will be filled with distractions, from having a shortened day Thursday to having no school Friday.
Coach Q kept insisting that we need to be on our best focus this week to succeed Friday night. The weather on Monday kept us inside, but we still managed to get better that afternoon. We still pictured making those plays in practice on Friday night. Defensively, we knew what was coming. We knew they were going to try to run the ball early and then turn the pass and QB run game really quick.
As Coach Q said, “I refuse to have teams run all over us. It’s embarrassing.”
The annual Tuesday TPR from Coach Lane arrived and today’s talk had fewer words, but was more of an observation. Coach Lane played a video from the movie Bronx Tale. He showed us the iconic scene where Sunny locked the biker gang into the bar and said, ”Now you can’t leave.”
Coach Lane proceeded to tell us what he’s going to be doing Friday before the game. He said, “While everyone is away during the day, I will head over to the gate in the back corner facing Saint Xavier and unlock the chain back there. When we finish our warm-ups Friday night, our captains will walk over to that gate, lock it for good, and will not let that team down the street out.” The chills filled the air as everyone in the room was pumped for this moment. It was not even gameday, but after listening to Coach Lane speak, it felt like it.
The alarm rang. My phone read 9:30 a.m. We were highly recommended to get up early and go to breakfast with one another. A few teammates and I met at Bacon and Jam that day. I have never seen a kid eat as much food as Connor Kenzinger.
He easily put down the leftovers of three teammates’ skillets during his sitting. While at breakfast, we all tried to stay away from talking about the game, but envisioning what we would be doing on the field. We all arrived at Rice at 2:45 p.m. for check-in. We went through our normal game day routine with chapel, lunch, and meetings.
Walking out onto the field that night and hearing everyone cheering with pride “Let’s go Rice!” really gave me chills. This is every grammar school kid’s dream, playing their rival from down the street, in what is always a dogfight until the end. The game went back and forth with us controlling the game going into the half.
The Crusaders were up 10-7 coming out of the half. We were all pumped, leading in a game where we were underdogs again. A rushing touchdown by Randall Nauden now had us leading 16-7. We all felt that this game was so close to our reach. The Redhawks were forced to punt but ended up pinning the ball down on the one yard-line. We realized later that this would be the turning point in the game.
You could tell that when our offense ran onto the field to try to put a drive together, the atmosphere wasn’t the same. The sideline was quieter, the student section was down, and the fans didn’t seem to be there. It was almost like we were at practice on Monday. This led to the Redhawks putting up 26 unanswered points by the Crusaders.
As the final sound of the horn rang, the emotions set in. In what seemed like a game we had already won earlier that night, ended with us crying with heads of defeat.
As we watched them celebrate on our field, we realized one thing – the new season starts today. Our road to Champaign begins the second we walk off this field. At the end of the day, this was just another distraction from our end goal – state champs.