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Football season wraps up Friday
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Updated: 11/08/2012 08:00:02AM

Football season wraps up Friday

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Larry Jewett

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Statistics in sports serve a purpose, but they never tell the full story. They may shed a little light that will help you eventually get the big picture, but it takes more than numbers, just like it takes more than Xs and Os, to get the job done.

The Bartow High School Yellow Jackets close off their 2012 season Friday night. They will be on the road to play Lake Wales, a game that typically befuddles Bartow and results in a Jacket loss. You have to go all the way back to 2005 to find a Bartow win over Lake Wales and it was 2004 when Bartow won at the home of the Highlanders. Worst case scenario, if it happens that way this year, Bartow ends up 4-6. If the team can break the Lake Wales jinx, they can point at a 5-5 record.

That’s where the statistics don’t even begin to tell the whole story. The wins and losses of the 2012 season are nowhere close to telling the tale about this team.

In 2011, Coach Brett Biggs said the team was going through a building year and the end result was a 3-7 record. Most building years serve as a prelude to better things ahead. The 2011 season did exactly that. The players who hit the field in 2012 took their lessons from 2011 to heart. Faced with the same set of opponents, but a year wiser in their ways, Bartow’s team has been in it to win it in nine of their 10 contests this year. There is always an exception to the rule and the Kathleen game, in rainy conditions at the opponent’s field, was that exception. For the clear majority of the games, Bartow was in every game. Four of the losses were by seven points or less with two of them by just four points. Compare that to 2011 and you will see a vast difference in the team’s play.

This is not a team that will focus on what could have been when they hit the field Friday night. This is a team that will come to play and play as a team. It has been one of the elements where you can find the most pride. The team effort was always there with everyone understanding their role and willing to do what it took to step in and make it happen. When injuries took out a player, someone else filled the gap and did so without notice. The team had some additional players on the roster, compared to past seasons, but these were players who were ready for action. The use of two-way players all but vanished and generally only occurred under limited circumstances. It kept the bodies fresh and increased the chance that the team could live up to their motto “Finish Strong.”

It is what will drive this team Friday night. It is how they want to finish their season, Bartow Strong.

The heart and soul of the squad rests with seniors who will be playing their last games in the Jacket uniform. Linebacker/co-captain Freddie Stevenson, who will move on to the football field in Tallahassee to play for Florida State University, gets his last shot at Lake Wales. Vontarius West, who scored an offensive and a defensive touchdown in the same game (last Friday against Winter Haven) is bound for Division 1 play. The program shows 22 players as seniors, all suiting up for the last time.

When the season is over, it was be analyzed and rehashed. There will be thoughts of what could have been, but that’s OK as long as those thoughts don’t rob the value for what was. Many wouldn’t consider a 4-6 or 5-5 season to be successful, but all things are relative. Regardless of the Friday outcome, this will be the most successful season of the Brett Biggs era and it gives vindication to the program. It shows improvement. The team was in it to win it, a trend that will continue to resonate through the program as players from Kevin Whitaker ’s JV squad try to find a spot on the varsity. There are some big shoes to fill in the days ahead, but the optimism is back and the hopes are higher.

But there’s one more game before any of that really matters. What matters now is Lake Wales and the Bartow squad will be prepared. We’ll see it when they hit the field Friday night. It will be evident from the kickoff. This is more than just a game. This is Bartow against Lake Wales. Only one will win, but statistics won’t tell the whole story. They never do.