NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 6, 2014

What goes around comes around

As I See It
Robert 'Boots' Chouinard

---- — High school football is all over, but there is still plenty of football in the air. We have the College Bowl game tonight. The professionals will go on far longer.

When a boy goes out for football in high school, he knows what to expect. It’s a tough game, not everyone is suited for it. The coaches do all they can to get a team ready. They must get into good physical condition. Not only must they be ready physically, but mentally as well. Coaches work on both aspects. In the locker rooms, they have posted signs with all kinds of messages, all done to inspire the players. Before each game is the usual pep talk to get the team to play extra hard.

I’ll always remember a game we had with Haverhill in 1941. It was my senior year, we had a pretty good team. Many of our earlier games were played on Friday nights. But this game with Haverhill was on a Saturday on our field. They had a good team as well, and being a larger school, they had a big squad. We knew beforehand it would be a tough game.

The first of the week our coach pulled a good one on us. Our quarterback, Don Zabriskie, quit the team because he got mad at the coach. We were really disappointed and were down in the dumps. We practiced the week without him.

On game day, both teams had gone out on the field for the usual warmups. After, we went into our locker rooms for final instructions. Haverhill’s room was pretty close to ours. They were very loud in singing “Roll Out the Barrel, We’ll Have a Barrel of Fun.” We were sitting in our room being very quiet, hearing them sing. We thought, “Wow, they are confident.”

Meanwhile, Coach O’Donnell was walking up and down the room in between us. We were sitting on benches near our lockers. He was chewing his usual tobacco and snapping his fingers as he walked. Suddenly, the door opened and a referee said, “Two minutes” to the coach. Soon after, the door opened again and in walked Zabriskie dressed in his uniform. He said loudly, “Let’s go!” Wow, we all jumped up happily and yelled “Yay! Let’s go.”

We went out on that field feeling so great, the enthusiasm remained the entire game. We played terrific and beat them very convincingly at a score of 25-6. Let me say, the Haverhill players walked very quietly to their buses.

Some years later, Coach O’Donnell was the coach of Peabody High School. I was coaching with Walter Sheridan at Salem High. You must realize that Salem is surrounded with cities. When we played one another, there was much rivalry. The stands would always be filled with spectators. Both teams were really up for each game.

On Sunday nights during the season, we had coaches meetings. We would go over scouting reports and set up a game plan. On the Sunday before our Peabody game, I told Sheridan about my high school game with O’Donnell. I suggested we do something similar. Sheridan jumped at the idea. He had our big fullback do something similar. He quit the team on a Monday. We practiced all week without him.

On game day, we warmed up on our own field. The ride to their field was very short. Our fullback drove to the field in his own car dressed in full uniform. We all sat in the bus near the field waiting for the game to begin. Soon an official came to tell us to get on the field. When he left, our player got onto the bus and yelled, “Let’s get them.” Off the bus the players ran to the field. The game turned out to be tough, as we expected, but we won.

After the game as we all walked off the field, O’Donnell walked a short way with one of our assistants. He said to him, “I know where you guys got that idea. I pulled it on Chouinard when he was in high school.” All I can say is, thank you, Coach, for such a nice scheme.

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Robert “Boots” Chouinard lives in Salisbury.