That was the word of the day for Chargers quarterback Eddie Smercina, as he and his teammates took the field Tuesday evening in fifth- and sixth-grade Doak Walker football league play at Woodbury Sports Complex.
And, with coaches and parents helping the team build up steam, victory was the result, but a hard-fought one.
The Chargers beat the Ravens 26-19 in a game that came down to the final minutes, with tension building from the moment the first whistle blew.
The teams were evenly matched throughout the first half, with the Ravens scoring early in the half, quickly matched by the Chargers, minutes later.
The pattern repeated, and at halftime, both teams had posted two touchdowns on the scoreboard, leaving them each with a score of 13.
Smercina, 12, who was already responsible for both of his team’s scores, took charge in the second half, running for two more touchdowns to bring the score to 26-13 in the fourth quarter.
“It felt really good,” Smercina said. “I try to make that many touchdowns every game.”
But, the Ravens weren’t giving up without a fight, as 11-year-old runningback Dalton Greenwood found his way to the end zone for the second time of the game late in the fourth, leaving the Chargers on edge. Ravens coaches Justin Gallegos and Shane Hadley strategized with an onside kick to attempt to even the score, but the team was unable to recover, as the Chargers dove on the ball to retain possession.
“We gave it a try,” Gallegos said. “It was just a little bit late and a little bit short.”
But, the two coaches were not disappointed in their loss, commending their players for giving “100 percent” the entire game.
“I’m proud of you guys,” Hadley told his team. “You didn’t quit.”
Greenwood said he was happy with the effort, despite the result.
“There are things we’ve got to work on for the next game,” he said.
The Chargers felt similarly about preparing for next week.
“Whenever we’re under pressure, we really need to work on holding onto the ball and not going out-of-bounds,” Smercina said.
Smercina credited his center, 10-year-old Justin Dugan, with “nice snaps.”
“I think we played good,” Dugan said. “We’re really good at running and defense.”
Chargers defensive coach Dave De Rose said the team had “taken awhile to come together,” but have started to hit their stride.
“They’ve gelled,” he said. “We’ve got some real animals out here who are really great, but it’s getting them to play as a team of animals that’s the hard part.”
Depending on the results of next week’s game against Hayden, the Chargers may be in line to play for first place in the Oct. 12 championship game. De Rose said the day’s game brought back memories of last year’s championship, when he coached the Steelers against Gallegos and Hadley, who headed up the Cardinals.
“It was a real slugfest,” he said.
De Rose said he would like the team to make it to the top game, but it’s not his only priority.
“We do our best to win every time, but it’s learning skills and teamwork that’s important,” he said.