No athlete performs in a vacuum. He is surrounded by coaches, teammates, parents, friends, expectations and, most of all, history. History is the tie that binds. Today always carries yesterday with it, and it should, for otherwise the past is a meaningless jumble of nothing, discarded like an empty soda can, and just as irrelevant. Dean Haskins wanted to make sure his Montgomery football team would never go there, that's why he plucked that 25-pound boulder from the Bennett Valley hills and painted it red.
"I wanted a symbol that would mean something to them," said Montgomery's coach.
Before every game this season, as the Vikings leave their locker room to the field, the players reach down and touch the rock, painted in school color red. That rock is a tactile representation of everything the previous coach, Jason Franci, had built at Montgomery. Those three NCS titles. Those nine NBL championships. Those eight 10-plus victory seasons.
But the program had fallen on hard times the past three seasons, only 10 victories total, not even a .500 season. Was Montgomery football in danger of becoming irrelevant? Was it disappearing? "At the first practice," Haskins said, "I asked them, 'How are you going to be remembered?'"
Step up, boys. You are in control of Montgomery football. What do you do with it?
"To us, football is not just something else you do," said linebacker-fullback Henry Stelzner.
You know, like going to Whole Foods to buy a bean burrito.
So dedicated are Haskins, his staff and his team that Montgomery has become the buzz of Sonoma County after only three games of the season. Montgomery is 3-0, having equaled already its victory total in each of the last two years. And the Vikings didn't scramble either to eke out any of those victories. The scores of 54-7, 50-18 and 40-0 are dramatic proof of that.
It has been a while since there has been so much curiosity about an Empire team so early in the season. How good are the Vikings? How far have they come?
"We're going to find out Friday night," Haskins said.