The coach is ever present. "You know he'll always be there for you," says tight end and linebacker Justin Alumbaugh. Ladouceur has routinely rejected the temptation to forsake De La Salle for the supposedly greener pastures of college ball.
"Leave?" he asks incredulously. "Why would I do that? I have enough of a challenge right here. After all, I'm a coach, a counselor, a trainer, an equipment man, even sometimes a kind of father. I'm doing this because I want to teach kids. If I made the jump away from here for money or recognition, I'd be doing it for all the wrong reasons. I'm a teacher, and you can't teach kids at a better age. It's a time of confusion for them, a time of looking for a place to fit in. I think a team should have a soul, and we're fortunate that in a Catholic school we can show our players that there is a spiritual side to life. I'm not saying we're saving souls here, because we're not. But we are offering these kids an opportunity to go in the right direction. Now, how do you put a price tag on that?"
The players sit on picnic benches in a secluded area near the school gym. It is 15 minutes before game time, and the coach is pacing before them, saying nothing. There is an eerie silence broken only by the sounds of the nervous Geldermann being sick. Some of the players appear to be praying. Every game now is a big one, no matter how ineffectual the opposition. The players have been cautioned to keep their focus tight—on every practice, on every down, on every moment of the experience. But they feel the pressure of the streak.
Ladouceur ends his silent march. He calls his team together. "Remember to hustle," he tells them in a quiet voice. "I want you to get your confidence up. You know what you've been trained to do. Now is the time to do it. Don't look to me for help. This is your thing. So let's play with passion. Have some fun. Enjoy the journey.... Now go get 'em!"
And, of course, they do.