Quite simply, I have not enjoyed watching a team as much as I did watching Murdock play football. They are well coached, they play hard and what they lack in numbers they make up for in will and desire. They are what high school sports are all about, a group of kids coming together for the betterment of the team.
On the other side, the Panthers were caught playing the blame game. In the shock that followed losing to a team that had been outscored 137 to 24 in their first four losses, Ayer-Shirley fought amongst themselves. The excitement I felt in watching the Blue Devils play their hearts out was tempered by the sadness of watching a team fall apart in front of my eyes.
It seemed on Friday night that the Panthers felt as if all they had to do was show up and the game was theirs. It is tough for a team that was 1-3 entering the night to play with a sense of entitlement, but Ayer-Shirley played as such and Murdock took advantage of that in claiming their first and possibly only win of the season.
What my father has taught me is that we cannot be critical of anything in covering high school sports, except one thing: effort. On Friday night, the Panthers lacked effort. They played as if they assumed their opponent would roll over at the sight of them. You can't win in sports by doing that and Ayer-Shirley found that out the hard way.
But the beauty of high school football is that every week, a team gets another shot to make things right. The Panthers can try to right the ship Friday night on their trip to Oakmont. It is another test in character and as an alum of Ayer-Shirley, I will be interested to see how they react. My hope is that this group of players can appreciate the lesson they learned on Friday night and use it as motivation.
Wins and losses can be easily forgotten, but effort is always remembered, and I hope that as I leave Ashburnham Friday night, I don't have the same feeling I did as I left Ayer last Friday. There are a group of kids who can make that possible, and I hope that they can pull it together in time to salvage this season.