By Jason Schock
When Falls City High Head Footbal Coach Darin Fritz sat down Monday to discuss his third Tiger team, there were countless directions from which to start the conversation.
Obviously, there were the eight wins against two losses this fall, the second district title in three seasons and the third consecutive winner and playoff qualifier. It’s a record he is – and should be – proud of, but framed by him in the context that his ultimate goal for all his players is that they enjoy the overall experience. Nobody likes to lose, so, yeah, it’s important to celebrate more Fridays, probably, than you evaluate. At the end of the day, though, just one team can celebrate a state title. So since a season-ending loss is part of the experience, there’s more to it than just touchdowns, turnovers and final scores.
He could’ve gone off about an 8-1 district championship season being rewarded with a trip to none other than Norfolk Catholic – and the ensuing 35-6 loss – in the first round of the playoffs. Of course it wasn’t “fair” and Falls City had “match-up” issues with Catholic. Who doesn’t?! The coach didn’t convey bitterness about the draw – actually, he tipped his cap: “That’s a very good football team,” he said.
Norfolk Catholic is a perennial state title contender and has been Nebraska’s Class C football bully for much of the past 20 or 30 years. They opened up a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, led 28-0 at half and put up its final tally with a 67-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
Falls City got on the board with 6:12 to play in the game on a one-yard run by senior Brenden Heckenlively.
On eight of 10 nights this fall it was Fritz’ football team putting up the gaudy numbers on the scoreboard and on the stats sheets. They scored more more than 36 points per game and nearly doubled up the opposition with almost 4,000 yards of total net offense in ‘14. That despite the varsity starters playing perhaps the equivalent of six full games of the 10-game schedule. The blowouts did no favors to guys trying to pad the stats, needless to say. They simply couldn’t get the touches. And just think: The Four-Headed Senior Monster of Heckenlively (8.6 yards per carry), Jack Hartman (6.3 ypc), Jordy Stoller (9.8 ypc.) and Weston Witt (7.3 ypc.) had the potential to roll up HUGE individual numbers, yet none even got to 1,000 yards rushing. Hartman, who took over the “spin” back position this fall, could’ve realistically become Falls City High’s first-ever 1,500-1,500 dual-threat quarterback, but came up 250 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing and 66 shy of 1,000 passing.
Stoller, a four-year starter, perhaps the most dynamic offensive weapon FC’s had in the modern day, and easily the most scouted Tiger receiver ever, caught just 21 passes this fall. Each went for 30 yards (at one point late during his junior season he was averaging 25 yards per carry, so he was very much a known commodity by ‘14), but you get the picture.
“Teams really went after Jordy,” Fritz said. “Most still didn’t have an answer, though. He’s one of those athletes that just doesn’t come around very often.”
And just one of several asked to check his ego at the door and sacrifice individual glory for the good of the whole.
They did that – they always did what he asked them to do – and that’s what Fritz said he’ll remember most about a special class that has played its last football game in orange and black.
“Zach Jordening came out of the game in the first quarter,” Fritz started. “He spits a chunck of his tooth in his hand; checks back in, goes across the middle and makes an amazing one-handed grab in traffic.”
Nevermind his team was fast on its way to trailing 21-0 in the opening quarter.
“You know, at the beginning of the year you get about 60 kids and maybe you don’t know what’s going on in any of those 60 heads. But these guys, I knew what they were about. I’m really going to miss them. They were a real pleasure to coach, real fun to coach and real fun to be around.”