What is a "best" team? The answer to that question, if you are an athlete or a coach is the one you're on. For fans it's usually the one team you picked for one reason or another when you were a kid (unless you're a Browns fan, still not sure why there?) or you have a vested interest in a team - like your kid plays on it.
For local newspapers and media outlets covering high school's the stories during the year determine which teams rose to the top in terms of accomplishments. But what are accomplishments?
That is what this article will try to determine, who was the team that made a difference in their community by how they played and how they measured accomplishment.
We cover these kids and get to know some of them - at least on the surface. That pitcher is very hard to hit, that running back is like lightning, that kid ain't afraid to toss it up from anywhere on the cour - things like that that stand out. But there are harder stories to know that are sometimes hidden that are the true catalyst for the team. Some players and coaches go through incredible adversity and it is amazing what some go through just to don the uniform at all.
These are "our" kids and their stories that we try to tell - somehow. And what a year it was for our local teams and their stories.
Editor's note, we could, and very likely have missed some extraordinary stories. These are the stories that we were privy to and have some knowledge.
They played hard as a team and complimented each other. They were well coached and fun to watch.
Their outstanding pitcher battled through a late season line drive to the leg that made her mom wince from all the way up on top of the hill outside the fence.
In her discomfort she provided athletic trainer Becky Barnes with a laugh because she was more concerned that she hadn't shaved her legs than she was with the pain and swelling. That laugh and the team's deep run in the playoffs was certainly team of the year material.
They too were very fun to watch.
The team played like baseball was fun and not like it was work. They too enjoyed a chance to play on the road in the playoffs. However, it was one moment early in the season that stood out to us.
After the death of a player from neighboring Rocky Grove, a kid many of the Franklin players either played with or against in little league, they took a moment. The team stood in silence before their next game to honor that player, the players family and the community. Because it was the right thing to do even though no one from Rocky Grove even knew they were doing it.
That was a class act and a fun thing for us to witness. Being a great team isn't just how you play the game, it is about how you respect the game, it's players and all the families involved.
They were undefeated! Wait... what?
So we chomped on some crow and sought the help of a very knowledgeable friend who truly knows volleyball to help us have a look at this team. Lisa Renwick came on board to provide some know-how and also noted this as a team to watch.
When we started our process of thinking about which team we wanted to highlight in this article, it was this team that first came to mind. A team that has been built from scratch over time by a determined coach with a love for his players. It took a few years but this team was two wins against West Middlesex away from winning the region. They were incredibly fun to watch and they showed poise and sticktoitiveness to win match after match. They still have a little way to go to compete in District 10 with the tough Crawford County teams and a talented West Middlesex who nearly went on to win the district.
What no one guessed was the zero would be in the loss column. We admit we overlooked them as we covered Franklin and Oil City even though both those teams struggled all season.
What was happening just up route 322 a spell apparently was something for the history books. And we are sorry we missed most of it. Covering their final game in Saegertown showed us just how good this team under first year head coach Mike Feleppa really was. (By the way Feleppa should have been named coach of the year - this was the most incredible of stories you'll ever find.) This team fell short of a district title on a firgid night, but man, they were fun to watch.
Franklin football hasn't had a winning record in a very long time. So how do they keep getting kids to come out?
That is where this team this year rose top the top in our thoughts. Coach Matt Turk invited Eight & 322 into the locker room to get to see some of the stories inside the story. He talked about this team as his family. He introduced us to a 125 pound kid who gives his all in practice and on the sidelines of games. His nickname is "Bug" and he sacrificed for his team in anyway he could to help. A chin strap was needed, "take mine," he'd say. He loves being a Franklin Knight.
One senior, Austin Beatty, suffered broken vertebrae over the summer in an accident but he wasn't about to miss being on this team. Hoping to be a team leader and help future players understand the meaning of the Franklin Knight family, he led by grit and determination.
That is why the coach calls his team - family. It takes a lot of guts to play for a team with not much of a chance to win. Each week they end up on the losing end. Each week they show right back up to practice on Monday ready to prepare for the next game.
We can't say this team was fun to watch per se, but they were fun to get to know and hopefully witness the beginning of a growing program. They were proud to be a part of the legacy of being a Franklin Knight. That says something.
This team could easily be considered the team of the year. Eating chocolate bars on a between raindrops day in Titusville is normally enough.
This team had to bury one of its own. They cried, mourned, carried their teammate's body across their baseball field over home plate and then got back to work playing in honor of their lost brother.
What could possibly be the meaning of team beyond that?
They played very well , made it to the playoffs looking for a district championship but just fell short in the end. They wore their teammates number on their jersey and they gave everything they had for him and his family who cheered from the stands.
This is a team. This is what being great looks like. Rocky Grove Boys Baseball team is the Eight & 322 team of 2021. We're not sure how you did what you did.
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