Six Degrees of Separation

Photo | Mac Kennedy The 2018-19 football season was dedicated to teammate Tyler Terry, who died of an undiagnosed heart defect last year. This season, the entire team wore practice jerseys and helmets emblazoned with Terry’s number 6.

Photo | Mac Kennedy
The 2018-19 football season was dedicated to teammate Tyler Terry, who died of an undiagnosed heart defect last year. This season, the entire team wore practice jerseys and helmets emblazoned with Terry’s number 6.

In numerology, the number six is nicknamed the motherhood number; the protector looking out for everyone around it. It has its flaws for sure, but at its heart, six is a compassionate leader. In the Quince Orchard community, we saw the power of the number 6 in real time.

And we believe.

Almost a year ago, the football team and the world at large was a little less bright when we lost player Tyler Terry of an undiagnosed heart defect. He was our #6 on the team and in life. Harmonious, happy and well-liked; all traits in numerology that translated to Tyler’s demeanor in the halls of Quince Orchard High School.

My son, a teammate of Tyler’s, was genuinely bereft at this loss. I watched as he and his friends sought to make sense of the senseless. The funeral was an uplifting, joyful experience as we ushered Tyler home with the promise that this was the preordained plan all along; we earthlings were just not privy to it. Through song and prayer, we were assured that Tyler would walk with us, though not among us, and would carry us when we needed it most.

And we believed.

The first step in healing was dedicating the 2018-19 football season to Tyler. Practice jerseys and helmets were emblazoned with #6 for the entire team. A picture of him graced the locker room wall, his number was painted on the field and the football logo was altered to include the #6. The team had a purpose and mission: make it back to the state championship after back-to-back losses and win it. Or as the poster in the locker room states, “Finish the job.”

By all accounts, it was going to take some divine intervention to make that mission a reality. Prognosticators said this would be a rebuilding year for the team after graduating a storied quarterback as well as other talented seniors.

But we believed.

The season itself was a wild ride. We were at turns both brilliant and crippled with penalties and mental mistakes. We suffered lightning delays, postponed games and more rain than Noah himself. After winning our first three games by significant margins, we fell to Bullis after a disappointing performance.

I like to think that defeat was Tyler setting the boys straight. Telling them they could be beaten. That every week was not going to be a victory with a double-digit differential. He was saying, “Get your minds straight and finish the job.” No one was going to hand a championship to the Cougars. They were going to have to earn it.

They always believed they could.

And as the soggy weeks rolled on, the Cougar faithful grew more invested in a return to Navy and the state championships. The team began to gel, bearing no resemblance to the Cougars stymied by Bullis. Fueled by redemption and a fierce guardian angel, the entire football organization could see the finish line.

What they didn’t foresee was a match-up with Wise High School before the championships. Yet, the seeding brought the Pumas to the Cougar Dome for the semi-final game. Wise snatched the state championship from QO two years straight, making this game emotionally charged and highly anticipated.

In front of a record crowd, the Cougars dominated their nemesis from the first snap and as time expired, the score read 31-6. If it looked as if the Cougars’ play was inspired, the #6 on the scoreboard was a visible reminder that it was. Tyler was behind every sack, blocked kick, long run and touchdown.

And the crowd chanted in unison, “I believe that we will win.”

The famed Red Army was ready to take the trophy and only North Point High School stood in the way. North Point was the underdog, but hungry for the upset with fire and fight.

Tyler, never shy and retiring, wanted to make sure we knew he was with us at Navy that night. In the first quarter, the score was tied 6-6 after the improbability of two consecutive blocked extra points. And then at the 6:06 mark of the second quarter, Quince Orchard tied the game 13-13.

That tie-up signaled a change in momentum as the Cougars went on to build a three-touchdown lead and earn the elusive championship. Still basking in the glow, the team marveled that this moment was like a movie, surreal and magical.

And it could not have been scripted better if it was a Hollywood production. Just as in the movie classics “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol,” we saw that guardian angels don’t make things happen. Rather, they show you the possibilities that exist.

This team had the talent, the coaching and the will to win it all. But many of these boys had watched teams of equal or better caliber fall short again and again. Yet, someone showed them it came down to the one word that never wavered through months of practices and games.

Six letters anchored this season and carried the Cougars to the sweetest of victories.