Clarke football makes impact off the field
Success isn’t always measured in wins and losses.
The Clarke football team proved that this year. If you look past the 1-9 record for the season, you’ll see the Indians had a successful year.
Second-year head coach Michael Kline set three goals for his team entering the 2013 season — 1. make the playoffs, 2. have a team GPA of 3.10 or higher and 3. to raise $600 for charity by scoring touchdowns at home games.
While the Indians didn’t make the playoffs, they did accomplish their other two goals, embodying the term “student-athlete.”
“Student-athletes — that’s what I tried to tell our guys,” Kline said. “There’s state rules and rules that our district has. But we don’t want to be just the minimum. We want to exceed that.”
Last year, the Clarke football team had a team GPA of 3.09, so Kline set this year’s goal at 3.10. The Indians easily surpassed that goal with a team GPA of 3.30, placing 14 athletes on the Class 2A District 6 academic all-district team.
“Very proud of the young men,” Kline said, “in the effort they give on the field and the time they donate off the field.”
Sophomore Rich Wilkins said meeting that team goal was a big accomplishment for the team.
“That was a great thing for the team,” he said. “Before coach Kline got here, we didn’t have as good of an academic team. Then when he got here, he set high expectations, which was a great thing.”
The other goal the Indians met this year was raising $600 for a charity by scoring touchdowns at home games. For every touchdown scored, a local business donated money to the charity the team chose.
This year, the team elected to give that money to the That Others May Live Foundation, which provides support to service men and women injured in the line of duty and to the families of those who have lost their lives in battle.
“One of our assistant coaches, Craig Wisniewski, his brother died serving in Afghanistan,” Kline said. “He kind of brought up the idea and the guys jumped on board. The organization was excited we were giving to them.”
The Indians entered the final home game of the season still short of the $600 goal, but reached that total in a 48-7 loss to PCM, Monroe.
Wilkins connected with Dustan Van Loon on an 8-yard touchdown to reach the $600 mark.
It was a special moment for Wilkins, who has an uncle serving in Iraq.
“All the money went to an organization that helps out the troops, which is an awesome thing,” Wilkins said. “My uncle is actually in Iraq, which is important to me. We had one home game left and we had one touchdown left to make, and I was throwing the pass, so it felt great. It was a great experience.”
In another fundraising effort, members of the Clarke football team formed a Relay for Life team at the first-ever Relay for Life event in Clarke County this past summer.
Kline was approached about forming a team, and recruited 25 players to participate.
“I didn’t ask them to do too much,” he said. “I said our goal is for each guy to raise $20, which was $500. When it was all said and done, we had $1,004.83 that we raised. I was very proud of them for the money they raised there.”
The Clarke football team also worked on a service project this year through the Clarke County Development Corporation’s (CCDC) Neighbors Helping Neighbors program.
One Saturday after a film study session, the team painted a community member’s house, and also did some touch-up work at the Osceola Historical Society’s school house.
“We spent probably about five to six hours working,” Kline said. “But, when you’ve got a lot of young, able-bodied young men at your disposal, they can do a lot of work in a short amount of time.”
Sophomore Hunter Simpson said doing the service work helped the team grow together.
“While you’re out there doing that, you learn a lot of team-bonding and building skills together,” Simpson said. “Also, through Neighbors Helping Neighbors, it’s great to see everyone’s face afterward when their houses just got fixed for free.”
Being able to help the community was a great experience, Simpson said.
“My dad’s a minister and I was always raised to treat people with respect,” he said. “This is my way of showing people my respect for them by helping out with community service. I really enjoyed it.”
Kline said he hopes his student-athletes are able to learn a few life lessons along the way.
“I think high school sports is a great teaching tool for life,” he said. “You only get to play high school sports for four years, but fortunately, many of these young men will live well into their 90s. They have a long life ahead of them, and I want them to build character traits, and be people that look to give back to their community.”
Kline said just like his football team has to work together as a team, he considers the community a team.
“This whole community is really a team,” he said. “Our slogan this year was ‘ALL INdians,’ and we wanted to emphasize that we were all committed, but that we were all Indians, that we’re all from the same community here.”