Final Point: A night to celebrate the best of Gering
     2011-10-20      By Terry Gaston   
In smaller municipalities, hometown athletic events seem to bring out the best in a community, especially on fall Friday evenings when townspeople can put aside their jobs and other life’s duties, meet with friends and watch their or their friends’ teenagers play.

That was never more obvious than Friday night at Memorial Stadium. And, as a footnote, it also extended back to Thursday night at Scottsbluff High School.

On a night when a Bulldog football team needed to break a four-game losing streak, Homecoming queen and king candidates and their attendants were honored for their school and life achievements thus far, and other senior student-athletes were lauded for their prep careers on their way out into the big world in about seven months, Gering pride — both in school and community — was shining brightly.

The cross country successes of seniors like Ryan Bustinza and Chelsea Wickard, who compete state on Friday for the third time each, were lauded at halftime. The band marched and gave its best performance of the season — as the season finale should be.

The GHS cheerleaders, decked out in their pink shirts to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, treated the crowd to an entertaining routine — choreographed by eventual Homecoming Queen Kayleigh Schadwinkel, whom we are proud to have as a columnist in the Citizen. Schadwinkel and her senior volleyball teammates will be honored in this spot in a few weeks, so stay tuned.

After the game, not only were Homecoming pictures and videos taken, but also were such group photos of senior players, and the Bulldog linemen who play in anonymity but give teammates like senior receivers Danny O’Boyle and Zach Smith and senior running back Mark Pieper, along with sophomore quarterback Dillon DeMott and many others, the chance to make the big plays.

So before we go any further, let’s mention those whom first-year head coach Jimmie Rhodes calls his “Hoggies”: sophomore center Blake Frye, senior guards Jordan Neuwirth and Kaleb Shaw, and senior tackles Tom Jacobs and Kyle Peters and sophomore Taylor Nelson — the latter two who alternate series.

And that four-game losing streak? Playing four of the top teams in Class B this season paid off for the Bulldogs, who slayed their namesakes from Alliance 17-7 and harbor their own playoff dreams. Just don’t ask Rhodes about them until after Gering plays at Sidney on Friday night, because “every week is the biggest week of the season.”

“I wouldn’t want to be on any other team in the state,” said Smith, whose team was shut out 17-0 the week before in Scottsbluff. “Coach Rhodes said we were still in it, so we show up for practice and we never gave up.”

“It starts with the guys up front, blocking for the ball carriers and with Dillon throwing the ball,” said O’Boyle, who was crowned Homecoming king after he made a key catch and run for a 25-yard gain on the Bulldogs’ game-sealing drive — and last year played behind many of those lineman as the team’s quarterback.

Smith also lauded the defense, from the inside out. “Our defense played like it could and really got their jobs done. Our defensive backs gave up one big play, but our whole effort was phenomenal.”
In addressing his team at midfield following the game and before O’Boyle, Pieper and senior Avery Petit took their places on the tractor-pulled Homecoming flatbed, Rhodes brought the Bulldogs and coaches to the same level. “I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of this football team,” Rhodes said.

Later, Rhodes said how the fire for Friday’s game built all week, starting with a win by the Bulldogs’ junior varsity. “The JV won on Monday and came to practice Tuesday with a little spring in their step, and the seniors were flying around and the kids couldn’t have worked any harder all week.”

Last Thursday, for the second time in a week, Gering and Scottsbluff met north of the river for an arch-rivalry match-up — this time, in volleyball. However, the two schools also joined forces to battle a common and bigger cause: cancer.

After fans on both sides of Bearcat Stadium raised a large sum for a Scottsbluff student’s medical funds during the Oct. 7 Twin Cities football game, the Bulldog and Bearcat cheerleaders on Thursday collected $434 in donations for Festival of Hope.

While I don’t live in Gering, I work here and I spend money here. Thanks to this part-time opportunity, I get to put my full-time job aside and get out in Gering and play with my writing talents in the career that has been so good to my family and me.

I have a great wife and three sons, and we live in what I call suburban Minatare — a nice way of saying the middle of nowhere, but we are connected only to that community by our address and telephone line. And my two youngest boys attend Scottsbluff High School and are proud Bearcats.

But as Jack Martin had to return back to the locked press box to help me retrieve my briefcase since my time on the field was elongated in covering Friday night as successfully as possible, I couldn’t help but feel a little Bulldog pride.

“This is a great community to be a part of,” O’Boyle said.
Thank you, Gering, for sharing that feeling with me and to Danny O’Boyle for ensuring that sentiment. These past 11 months have been a joy; I can’t wait to write more about your kids as they have fun, achieve and live life to its fullest.

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