CALUMET CITY | As the T.F. North football players slowly peeled off their jerseys and decals off their helmets Friday night, you could see the frustration in their eyes.
The Meteors lost 48-26 to Oak Forest in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs, and what made it tough is not only did the season end, but also the Meteors actually led 20-0.
This was against the same Oak Forest team that beat T.F. North 42-12 in Week 5. What worked in the first half, didn't in the second half. Oak Forest adjusted, and North couldn't. The Meteors had their chances, but they let Oak Foresrt back into the game, and they paid the price.
Adversity has been a part of the season from low numbers and injuries to letting leads get away. North led Tinley Park 20-7 at half in the third game of the season but ended up losing 56-52.
It lost team leader and quarterback Calvin Lindsey and played Friday without starters Delon Perry and DeAndre Fox, who were out with injuries. A few others were banged up such as defensive tackle LeBrandon Collins, who played the season with a rotator cuff injury.
"I had to play, couldn't let my teammates down," Collins said. "It is really tough for us because this is our last game, but we fought through a lot of things, and we had a fun season."
Senor wide receiver Claude Garrett put his season into perspective.
"The coaches here gave me a chance to prove myself," Garrett said. "I transferred last year and didn't play much, but they gave me a chance and I will never forget this season.
"They pushed me to get better and play hard."
That North did, though it made both physical and mental mistakes Friday night. I will give them credit for not backing down after getting beat so bad the first time by a good team. Ironically, North's last playoff win was against Oak Forest in 2002.
Quarterback Dion Beecham threw caution to the wind and also threw three touchdown passes. It was after the first playoff game that the senior came of age. Once he settled in and down, things came a little easier for him.
"Dion did step up and that was the key," linebacker Jason Knight said. "We all came together and played hard. Tonight, a few things didn't go right, but we just went out every game and played hard. It was a great year."
What hurt North was on some occasions, it did not put together a complete game, and Friday was one of those. This is not a bashing because when everything went wrong early in the season, it would have been easy to fold up the tent and go 3-6 with excuses.
But the Meteors didn't do that, and the North coaching staff wouldn't allow it. Artie Rogers and his staff are competitive, and it certainly rubbed off on his players.
It is always tough to say goodbye, but this team made the playoffs for the second-straight year, and the players should be proud of their accomplishments. Postseason football in Calumet City is becoming a staple again.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.