Each Bobcat was called to the stage, one at a time, with Herring and his right-hand-man coach Drew Cox squeezing the players with bear hugs and a traditional pat on the bottom.
Then it was Jake Henderson’s turn.
The 215-pound junior lineman encircled Herring in his powerful arms and lifted him a foot off the stage floor. Henderson showed his own style of embrace. The crowd roared in delight.
When the rings were all in the owners’ hands, Herring said, “This is what dreams are made of.”
The season ended perfectly — 41 wins and 41 stones in each ring.
Laughter echoed through the auditorium but somber moments crept into the cavernous space as Ally Cosetti sang her rendition of “The Boys of Fall” before the champions were given the go to gaze at their rings.
Herring read a poem penned by his wife, Lisa, entitled “Linked.” In rhyming words, the season was relived, recounting the hurtful moments when naysayers who did not even know these Bobcats or their coaches, felt compelled to criticize.
Lost to the critics were the strength and tenacity of this special group of young teens — boys who sported wills that could not and would not be broken by cruel words.
Though this team will never collectively sprint across the gridiron or run through the Bobcat tunnel into Jack Sportsman Stadium, they are forever linked – a “family,” as Herring said.
Video highlights of the season put together by John Gregorczyk with photos by Neil Tucker and set to music blared through the room, deafeningly thrilling to watch.
The black stage curtain provided the screen while the audience cheered and gasped as the championship season was relived for a brief few moments.
Was the championship worth the summer conditioning, the daily practice when the temperatures soared past 100 degrees? Was it worth the aching muscles, the stinging eyes as sweat dripped and puddled on brows?
Collectively, these Boys of Fall have no doubt.