MIDDLETOWN — From opposite ends of the dirt track that surrounded the football field, Gracie Pachie and Rosie Emerson hit the gas Friday night. Facing each other, about 120 yards apart, the Middletown sophomores kicked their quarter horses in the flank. With the reins in one hand and a pole with the American and California flags in the other, they charged. Leaning forward in the saddle, the wind pinning back their ears and hats, they passed within a few feet of the other.
The bet here is, as they passed both the girls and the quarter horses probably winked at each other.
Over the stadium loud speaker a recording of Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless The USA" was playing.
The girls and their horses went to midfield. At attention along with a color guard from a Navy unit at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Petaluma, they listened motionless as the national anthem was sung. Absent was chatter and giggles in the stands, all too common these days at the singing of that song.
The only thing missing was Mom standing there holding her apple pie.
Nobody around here does homecoming like Middletown High School. That was the first thought.
The second thought: Middletown is bigger than any clerical error.
The people at NCS and the CIF need to remember that. As they listen to Middletown's appeal to overturn the forfeiture of the Mustangs' first two football game, an appeal most likely to be presented Tuesday, they need to remember where the mistake was made and how the mistake was made.
First, this is Middletown, pop. 1,323, Small Town America in every sense, where people wear honesty like an everyday shirt. This is a town where everyone knows everyone's business because, well, everyone likes everyone's business. Middletown is no place to hide, no place to deceive, no place to be nasty to thy neighbor. Old-fashioned values — Lee Greenwood would say if he ever visited here — run like a hot electrical current through every home and business, hill and dale.
"This is something no one would have ever known, it was that small," said Bill Roderick, Middletown High School's principal. "But we self-reported it to NCS because it was the right thing to do. We tell our kids all the time to be responsible for your actions, to own it, that character matters, that integrity matters. How you handle adversity will define greatly who you are.
"So we had to report it because all of us (school staff) had to look at ourselves in the mirror at night. We have to be able to sleep at night."
How was it made?
"Have you attended Middletown High School in the last 12 months?" That was the question on the student-athlete eligibility form. The student, a placekicker, had spent the past nine months at a boarding school in Lake Tahoe. The three months before that he was in Middletown. His family, by the way, never left. So he answered the question truthfully. He had attended Middletown in the last 12 months.
Clearing out his desk early last week, having thrown out every piece of paper, Middletown Athletic Director and Dean of Students Airic Guerrero found one piece at the bottom of the pile. It listed the student as having attended the boarding school. No problem, Guerrero thought. Head coach Bill Foltmer felt the same way. We'll just report it to NCS.