Editor's note: The Suburbanite asked senior football players from several local schools to record their thoughts as they went through the week of their final regular-season high school football game. For some, the playoffs loomed, while others entered the week knowing it would be the last football game they would ever play. Hoover senior lineman Gary Gates was one of the players who chronicled their week as the Vikings prepared for their rivalry game against Jackson.

Monday

Monday, as Monday’s always do, began slowly at school. It was Movie Monday for Spirit Week and I originally planned to dress as Miss Appear from the International Justice League of Super Acquaintances from Spongebob with Evan Bauer, Ben Smith and Cameron Logan, but after I tried on my costume made from clothes we bought from Goodwill, I decided I would go as Mr. Miyagi from the movie “The Karate Kid.”
Practice started at 3:00 p.m. sharp, as usual, but everyone seemed more focused, at least the seniors. It dawned on us that depending on how we prepare and play this week it could be our last week of football forever, with exception to maybe (senior quarterback) John Keller. Around 5 p.m., the rain was coming down so hard the defense could barely hear coach Doty from a few yard away and normally HIS voice can be heard from the other end of the field. Coach Baum sent us inside for the remainder of practice and the offense did perfect play in the weight room.

Tuesday

Tuesday’s are offensive emphasis practices and today’s seemed sharp. My personal coach, Tim Goodman, had us do our usual offensive line drills before our team sessions and we were all fired up for Friday because we knew our season was on the line. The offense was sharp and we were locked in for Friday.

Wednesday

Today was a defensive practice so that means I, along with most of the Nickel (the offensive line) was bored out of our minds, but at the end of practice we went into do what we call senior hit. Senior hit is when all the seniors tell a story from playing football at Hoover, share a piece of advice and then hit a tackling bag. But every year sophomores are told - as a joke - that seniors can call out any sophomore and hit them with a 20-yard running start. This year’s sophomore class was almost too gullible and most were terrified it was true.

After practice all the lineman went to Buffet Dynasty for our weekly lineman dinner, except this week we opened the invitation to most skill players. Lineman dinners are a tradition started three years ago by coach Goodman, so they were always fun and helped our linemen bond together. Buffet Dynasty is a spot we frequent for our lineman dinners.

Thursday

Thursday’s are our walk through practices. They’re usual shortened to end about 4:30 (unless our defensive coaches start talking). We walked through game-like scenarios and both our offense and defense seemed sharp for Friday night. After practice the whole team raced over to the high school for our last team feed.

Later on around 9:30 p.m., some of us seniors and a few cheerleaders came to our school rock to paint it for the game tomorrow. We dedicated the rock to our brother Zach Herrera.

Friday

This morning we had learned someone from Jackson painted over our rock that we had dedicated to Zach after we left last night and seeing that, it made the game even more personal. Everyone was excited for the game tonight and I was ready to go to the playoffs for the first time.

The game didn’t go our way. We fought all four quarters, every play and even two overtimes, but Jackson had got a lucky break here and there and won the game, 35-28. I was proud of our effort; we had played our hearts out and I couldn’t of been more proud to be out there fighting with my brothers. It was a heartbreaker, our whole team was sad and our coaches disappointed because we felt that we should have won. Still, we couldn’t of asked anymore of each other because we all left everything we had on the field. It wasn’t the way we wanted to leave our season but I couldn’t have asked for any better coaches and teammates.