NOVAK: Rams face adversity head-on

Anyone who is a regular reader of my column knows I am passionate about high school sports and why they are an important part of any education.

Never more was that on display than it was last Friday night during the Dowagiac-South Haven Wolverine Conference football game at Chris Taylor-Alumni Field.

The Rams, who have struggled with numbers at the varsity level the entire season, showed up in Dowagiac with 14 players dressed for the game.

By the end of the first quarter South Haven was already down a player and down 21 points on the scoreboard to the Chieftains.

Early in the second quarter another injury forced the South Haven coaching staff to ask for a running clock the remainder of the contest.

I began to consider I might be covering my first high school football forfeit.

I began to worry about the health and safety of the South Haven players as Dowagiac was having its way with them on the field.

No one would have blamed the Rams for tossing in the towel and heading home at halftime.

To their credit, not only did South Haven stick around for the second half, but its players continued to play hard despite the lopsided score and the fact that it was down to just 12 players.

High school sports is about more than wins and losses. It is about learning to work together for a common cause and to face adversity and conquer it.

South Haven stared adversity right in the face and defeated it.

Forget about the 45-0 score that will be recorded into the history books.

The South Haven Rams were the winners this past Friday night.

I have never been more proud of a group of individuals than I was at the end of the game. Both sides deserve to be complimented on their efforts.

Dowagiac could have taken out its frustrations of a loss that all but eliminated them from the postseason the previous week on South Haven.

But instead, Chieftain coach Mike Stanger and his staff used it as a teachable moment.

You see, you do not have to be on the losing side or be a losing team to learn about dealing with adversity.

The Dowagiac players were able to learn what it means to be merciful while at the same time maintaining their focus and playing hard without malice.

“I have all the respect in the world for those kids,” Stanger said. “It would have been real easy for their coach to say at halftime that they were done. They stayed out there and played to the end. I felt for them and our kids felt for them.”

So the next time you hear someone talk about how sports are overrated and that there is too much emphasis on them, take a minute to share this story with them.

Friday night was what high school sports are all about. And that is why I will defend them until my final breath.

Compassion, humility and reaching deep down inside of one’s self and giving it everything you have for yourself and your teams are just a few of the things that high school sports can teach you.

I was glad I got the chance to see it in action first hand.

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at


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