Commentary: Victory means more to Glades Central than it would have to Dwyer
Monday, September 05, 2011
by Greg Stoda
Photo by Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post
On a sweltering Labor Day a national holiday celebrating the United States' workforce from sugar mills to office corridors the kids who punched the clock first, last and hardest won:
Glades Central 24, Dwyer 10.
And perhaps that was appropriate.
Nothing against the losing Panthers' loyal fans who traveled east-to-west across Palm Beach County to fill the visitors' stands at Effie C. Grear Field on a 90-degree Monday afternoon. Nothing at all, because it would have been easy for the Dwyer rooting section to have stayed home and watched the nationally televised game on ESPN.
But there's something special about high school football in The Glades.
It just seems, well, a little more important out where the sugar cane grows than it does anywhere else in these parts. Let's just say there weren't any T-shirts proclaiming Class of Pick a Year membership in Dwyer blue-and-white, but there were several in Glades Central maroon-and-gold.
The traditions run generations deep at Glades Central, and, sure, maybe the Raiders (six state titles) play with a tinge of resentment against a team such as Dwyer in powerhouse showdowns like this one.
"Oh, if we lose, we'll never hear the end of it," one Glades Central fan worried at halftime with Dwyer holding a 10-7 lead.
That almost certainly would not have been the case, because the Panthers probably would have been happy to get away with their first win in six meetings. But the point to be made is that Dwyer has garnered enough of a share of attention an enormously successful program complete with high-profile recruits to move in next to Glades Central on the national scene.
It's not that the Raiders have anything to prove to the Panthers, because, hey, a six-love count speaks plenty loudly all on its own. But there was an undeniable sense of satisfaction in the Glades Central glow of victory.
"I think a lot of people think we aren't going to be as good as we usually are," Raiders receiver William Likely said. "I don't worry about any other team we're playing, but I want us to take care of our business every time we play. We have a reputation to keep."
And that's it, exactly.
There's a sense at Glades Central that every team is playing for all the ones that came before. The teams are a fabric of the community in a proud manner unique to small-town America.
It's almost like a debt due on an annual payment.
It's why Likely said what he said despite Glades Central's standing as a favorite to win another state championship.
"We love the pressure," he said.
Likely returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, but the Raiders didn't score again until the fourth quarter. Likely then set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter with a long reception, then scored another one with a 45-yard catch. A late field goal was decoration.
The game was sloppy, and by that measure not the best national advertisement for an appreciation of the best of Palm Beach County high school football. But it's worth noting that it was cleanly played a single personal foul by my unofficial sideline count in cramp-inducing heat.
There was little posturing.
There was no demonstrative exchange of taunting.
It spoke to a mutual respect.
But it still was difficult to shake a Labor Day notion that a loss would have resonated more deeply in the sugar mills and been felt more emotionally by Glades Central than it will be by Dwyer.