MENDOCINO — Folks, you know, the ones who live around here, I just want to remind you of something. You got it so good. You need to know that. You may have forgotten.
Standing on the football field and looking west Saturday, I saw the Pacific Ocean through the Cypress trees. And the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. That's not a view. That's the beginning of a National Geographic special.
The public address announcer noticed a penalty flag being thrown by a game official and said over the microphone Saturday afternoon: "Looks like we got some yellow laundry out there again." And some guy upstairs is majoring in creative writing.
No one falls asleep during an eight-man football game. It's like watching lightning. You never know when your breath will be taken away. On Saturday, touchdowns were scored from 20, 33, 35, 40, 44 and 75 yards. When Anderson Valley's Jesus Hernandez ran it in from the 2 in the fourth quarter, I wanted to throw it back. Too short. Must be longer.
And then there's Reed Carter. Maybe there's a Reed Carter on every team. OK, I lied. There isn't a Reed Carter on every team. There probably isn't a Reed Carter on any team. I mean, look what happened Saturday at halftime.
It was Homecoming 2013 at Mendocino High School and the five finalists for both King and Queen lined up in front of the Mendocino bench and fans. Each candidate was introduced. Until Carter was announced, the highlight was the announcer presenting Cyrus Maden with "his goal to stay in college for as long as he can." Finally, a high school kid keeping it real, being actually truthful about his future.
And the winners are ...
Shanti Marcello is the Homecoming Queen.
Reed Carter is the Homecoming King.
He is Shanti's boyfriend.
I am not making this up.
Carter is also standing in his full uniform, sans helmet. His team is in the locker room, trying to figure out how stop Hernandez, Anderson Valley's fire hydrant. Carter is shifting from one foot to another.
"I was antsy," he said. "I want to get with the coaches and the team to find out what was going on."
Did Carter think to leave the ceremony, tell someone there was a football game going on and, well, you can tell that by the uniform I'm wearing? Did he? Are you kidding? This is Reed Carter we're talking about.
This is Reed Carter who had parents of Anderson Valley kids come up to him after the game and say, "I love you, man. You're so special." Yes, parents! No buds. Adults, adults with gray hair.
"Reed is an exceptional young man," said Noah Gold, the school's athletic director. "He will be a success in whatever he does in his life. I am proud to say I know him and consider him a friend."
Reed Carter, Homecoming King, owner of a 4.0 GPA, best player in the NCL III, beloved by friend and foe alike, who condensed the game of eight-man football perfectly.
"It's like Arena League football," said Carter, who scored three touchdowns and ran for 211 yards on 22 carries.
One does not fall asleep in eight-man, any more than one falls asleep during a prison break. And watching it, after a while, it doesn't feel like an eight-man football game. It feels like football.
Hernandez runs players over. Carter runs around them. Mendocino's Preston Salmans has a sixth sense to finding the football. Officials blow face-mask calls. Mendocino has speed and so the Cardinals usually control their games with it, just as speed in 11-man football will do the same.
"I'm going to keep two players on Reed during the game, that's how much I respect him," Anderson Valley coach Danny Kuny said.
And Carter still gained 211 yards — while not feeling completely healthy. He missed three games with a pulled groin muscle in his left leg. This was his first game back.
"I was about 80 percent," Carter said. "I never pushed it. I didn't want to take a chance."
Kuny once coached Carter, a senior, in a Pop Warner league in Boonville. They are friends. Kuny told Carter before the game he would trip him up if he ran down Anderson Valley's sideline. Carter never did go down that sideline.
They laughed about it afterward. And, oh, that's the other thing.
Mendocino football doesn't feel like a blood sport, even with close rival Anderson Valley on the other sideline. The competition is fair, clean, hard and then there's pizza later. Carter was approached so many times after the game by Anderson Valley coaches, players and parents, you wouldn't have known he was the guy that had a double-team on him.
That's what struck me. None of this seemed out of order for the people around here. This is what happens here at a Mendocino eight-man game. They see the view, the people, the attitude, the eight-man game, the homespun nature of it all, and they aren't surprised. And why should they? They see it all the time. What's the big deal? Doesn't everybody have an ocean view and Reed Carter?
I wonder if they realize how good they got it.
Some memories you never want and you feel trapped when they happen, suckered in actually, a bit angry because you were given no choice but to remember. This is not one of those memories.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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