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July 8, 2014
Midwest City Football: Laying the Foundation
There are around 90 Midwest City Bombers out during in the second week of July suffering for a prize that isn't guaranteed to go to them come December.
Their heads are down. Their legs are churning. Their arms are pulling at air, and yet the stopwatch is still gaining on them.
"I know you're not walking!" barks one of Midwest City's coaches. "We got way too much energy out here not to make a run."
There's no time for them to feel sorry for themselves out here on half of a turf field. They'll get no help from anyone except the encouragement from boys wearing black shorts and hurting alongside them.
At 9:45 a.m. on the Monday following the Fourth of July weekend, it's already north of 90 degrees with a heat index pushing toward triple digits.
The clouds have taken the day off. The sun isn't so much hot on their flesh as it is frying it like bacon in a skillet while they do their best to catch what little breath they can.
The only brief reprieve they receive in this fenced-in sauna are the water bottles they've brought with them and makeshift fountain just outside the gate. The Bombers are sweaty, exhausted.
The truth is they were already tired before they even stepped foot outside. Before most folks have their first cup coffee, the Bombers were in the midst of a 40-minute weightlifting session in a humid room with local legends on the walls.
Of course it's true. This is the same high school that produced two standout quarterbacks from the same family.
One went to Oklahoma; the other to Oklahoma State. We know them as Cale Gundy, OU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, and, Mike Gundy, head ball coach in Stillwater.
Those are big names to the Bombers, for sure. But they are old names, too. Names they see more in print, on television and hear over the radio than they see every day.
To these boys working toward a goal that isn't truly tangible right now, the name Flanders means a bit more.
In all there have been three Flanders boys to come through Midwest City and all have received football scholarships. The most prominent of them, Timothy, is a New Orleans Saint.
This summer the Bombers have seen his work ethic up close when he was in the weight room alongside them, showing them what could be accomplished with enough drive, will and discipline.
They know that not too long ago Timothy Flanders was a Bomber too.
Maybe the weight he was pushing was different, but the fundamentals of growing bigger, faster, stronger are the same. He squats like they squat. He bench presses like they bench press.
He dreamed like they dream.
Many of the Bombers have bought into what MWC coach Darrell Hall teaches and some have received interest and offers from Division I schools. A few, like senior safety Will Sunderland, have become high priority recruits for bluebloods like Oklahoma, Ohio State and Nebraska.
This is the environment that helped shape, mold and refine the Flanders boys, Sunderland and several others. This is the cauldron they were dropped into and told to make friends with pain and then came out stronger because of it.
It is sweltering days like this one that create contenders for state titles in Oklahoma. That knowledge isn't lost on Hall as his Bombers stagger across the line after yet another run.
Some of his boys have taken these last few reps off, and he can't have that. He knows they have more to give. He hasn't seen their best yet, not today.
Too many Bombers are waiting until the last stretches of their runs to try to turn it on and come across the line just in front of the stopwatch.
"You're not trying to get out in front," Hall says. "You're just trying to survive. If we just try to survive in 2014, we're dead."
That fires them up. They only have one more gasser on the day's agenda. Just one more.
"Hey," a Bomber says, "Everybody make this so we can leave."
Some get into a 4-point stance. Others anchor a toe in the turf. Still others are just happy to be on their feet at all.
On the whistle, they tear off from one sideline to the other. There's still time on the watch when many of them come across the line for the last time.
Those that missed their times during the first series make them up while teammates root them on. No one is left behind.
The Bombers cool down and circle up in close quarters to stretch as a group before breaking it down in a team huddle, safe in knowing the day is over.
But tomorrow they'll wake up and do it all over again. That is the cost of winning football games.