by Todd Black // ESPN 104.5 – Baton Rouge / Louisiana Prep Scoreboard Show
High school football, season after season, continues to deliver stories that are ‘too good to be true.’ High school football (athletics) offers so many ‘teachable moments’ for both coaches and players and, on occasion, it unfolds right before your eyes. Sometimes it’s noticeable; other times, not as much. These stories separate themselves from the rest because they rarely have anything to do with winning or losing and they almost always unveil the true character of the teenagers involved.
This past Friday, the football lights of South Louisiana did not disappoint; especially for those who attended the Archbishop Hannan/St. Michael 1st Round playoff game. Not only did Hannan host a 1st round playoff game, but it was also was Senior Night. Nothing would top this night off better than a playoff victory for the Hawks and their 23 seniors; …. or so they thought.
To get you caught up, most of this year’s football senior class grew up together hunting, fishing, and playing football, with one exception, Andrew Gallagher. Andrew grew up hunting, fishing, and playing baseball. After this past baseball season was cut short, Andrew decided 12 years of playing baseball was enough, so he retired the ole ball glove and bat. Andrew was content that his senior year would consist of hunting, fishing, and watching his buddies play football on Friday Nights; his buddies had other ideas. You see, all the years that Andrew played baseball, he never once thought about putting on a helmet, a pair of shoulder pads, or wearing a mouthpiece. With that said, all those years his buddies played football; they never could get Andrew to put on a helmet, wear shoulder pads or wear a mouthpiece.
If you ask me, at 5 foot, 7 inches; 125 pounds, my man Andrew ‘ain’t no dummy;’ but, he is a competitor. Andrew’s buddies continued to scheme in the hallways until this past off-season Andrew finally said ‘I’m in.’
So, in the heat of the summer, it began. Andrew practiced and practiced and practiced and socially distanced and practiced some more. In early October, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association said the 2020 football season was a go; the Hawks started 3-1. In the 5th week of the season, the Bogalusa Lumberjacks came to town. With a healthy lead in the game, Andrew got to see his first action, albeit for only about 3 minutes, but hey, it’s 3 more than he thought he would ever play.
So, the next few weeks would quietly pass as the regular season ends. The Hawks ended the season 5-2. This would earn the Hawks a #4 seed and a 1st round home playoff game in Division II. This night is a big night for Hannan; but to then add Senior night to the agenda, all of a sudden the atmosphere is rocking. Something to note, for Senior night, there is an unwritten rule that all coaches will get as many seniors in the game as possible.
With Hannan leading 21-6 and 3:00 remaining in the 4th Quarter, Andrew Gallagher’s number was called to enter the game as a defensive back. As Andrew enters the game, we know for certain his parent’s eyes were set upon him. What most in the stands was unaware of, was how big this moment would be for Andrew’s 22 senior teammates. These classmates included one of the top rushers in the state, a linebacker who led the team with 12 tackles that night, a few starting offensive linemen; but no matter what position they played, when Andrew entered the game, the senior class wanted Andrew to have fun and make a play to get the full effect of “Friday Night Lights.”
On one of the rainiest, muddiest nights for football, after the whistle had blown ending Andrew’s first play, Andrew’s white pants were still white. However, on the next play, things would change. With the quarterback receiving the snap in shotgun, the running back and two linemen release to Andrew’s side of the field; the running back catches the screen pass, starts working upfield; Andrew sheds the attempted block of the receiver, takes off toward the running back, mud flying around Andrew like a thoroughbred running on a sloppy track at the Kentucky Derby – Gallagher’s teammate hits the running back, the football pops free, falling in a puddle of mud! As the ball lay drenched in mud, Andrew Gallagher’s hustle, Andrew Gallagher’s will to compete, Andrew Gallagher’s determination found the ball underneath his body for a game-sealing, fumble recovery.
Immediately senior night was forgotten, the playoff win lost a little of its luster all because the buddy, friend, teammate these 22 seniors talked into playing football with them just recovered a fumble to solidify a victory for Archbishop Hannan.
After the game, the Senior Class hoisted Andrew up into the air, onto their shoulders, and started their walk toward Hannan’s victory bell. After every victory, after the team meeting on the field, the fans and players walk toward the Victory Bell. The ringing of the bell is symbolism for their Friday Night success. This honor is usually conducted by the Hawk’s team captains, but not tonight; the honor was given to Andrew Gallagher.
How excited were Andrew’s teammates? Here are some photos.
You know Andrew, it comes across noticeably clear to me what your teammates think about you. It also comes across that your teammates appreciate the commitment you made to them and the Hannan football team. In the end, this victory means a lot for you, your team, and your school; but I think you recovering a fumble while playing underneath the Friday Night Lights was on an entirely different level that I cannot come close to putting in words other than “I get it.”
Well done Hannan, well done Senior Class, and well-done Andrew – no doubt your parents and coaches have taught you right. By the way, guys do not get carried off on their teammates or player’s shoulders every day. Matter of fact, it barely happens anymore. Coaches like Don Shula, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi just to name a few. I get the fact you are not a coach but my point to you would be ‘but you are well respected’ and that my friend is something no one, no one can ever take from you, but you.