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Bil Gilbert
November 21, 1977
Injuries and bitter losses dampen Vicksburg High School's elation, anti-football voices are heard and the long season comes to its sad, sweet conclusion
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November 21, 1977

In The End, Defeat And Pain

Injuries and bitter losses dampen Vicksburg High School's elation, anti-football voices are heard and the long season comes to its sad, sweet conclusion

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Tackle Steve Hunt and Fullback Rick Jensen are named the defensive and offensive players of the game after the sweet, unexpected opening-game victory over South Haven by the Vicksburg High School Bulldogs (whose fortunes I followed during the 1976 season). However, nobody is more elated by the victory and his part in it than Tailback Chip Cree, who may not have gained many yards but who had scored what proved to be the winning touchdown.

Chip and his family live in Fulton, a crossroads hamlet six miles east of Vicksburg. His father Roger operates a service station and garage which is more or less the community center of that southwestern Michigan village. On the morning after the Friday night South Haven game, Roger Cree is selling gas, working on cars and holding forth on the Bulldogs' win to half a dozen sitters and hangers-about. "I think what it was," says Cree, "was that our kids were tougher. They just wore them down in the last half. It was one of the best high school games I've watched, and if you'll pardon my bragging, I think my boy Chip is the best all-round player on that team."

Twenty-five years ago Roger Cree played tackle for a much larger high school than Vicksburg. Now he is running a little toward fat, but he is still a powerful man. "He is the strongest man I've ever seen," says Chip admiringly and then adds, "Rick Jensen may be able to take me, but his old man had better be careful around mine."

Like Roger Cree, Al Jensen is a former tackle, but he played for Vicksburg. He is also large, also an enthusiastic rooter, also a very proud father. Because Al Jensen thinks his son Rick, who is a linebacker on defense as well as the team's most dependable ground-gainer, is clearly the best Vicksburg football player, he is annoyed by Roger Cree's boasting loudly about his son. Cree reciprocates, and when the two big, boisterous fathers are carrying on at games, feelings sometimes get very intense.

Chip works for his father in the evenings and on weekends, but this Saturday, with full parental approval, he sleeps late and doesn't come limping in to work until mid-morning.

"I've never felt better about anything in my whole life," says Chip of the game. "It's the best win I've ever been in."

Somebody said, "You got your bell rung pretty good in that second half."

"Man, did I. I know that guy that got me. I played baseball against him. When I went in, I got him back."

Mark Brown, the tall, slender end and punter, is in agony the morning after the game because of a shot he took when he went up to catch a pass between two defenders. When he tries to move abruptly or breathe deeply, sharp pains stab him in the chest. On Monday he is examined for broken ribs, but the report is negative. Nevertheless, the pain is severe.

Steve Hunt is in pain on Saturday morning, too, hobbling badly on the ankle he sprained the night before. He is so handicapped he cannot go to Kalamazoo to look at a motorcycle he has been thinking about buying, and neither he nor Brown is permitted to take part in practice at all during the next week.

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