Hard work creates magic

Washington football team about more than playing

Wilx Witthoft makes a tackle for Washington against West Delaware. (Dana Royer/Courtesy)
Wilx Witthoft makes a tackle for Washington against West Delaware. (Dana Royer/Courtesy)

WASHINGTON — It could have been remembered as the year the virus changed everything. Instead, the 2020 football season of the Washington High School football team created multiple memorable moments, magical even. Hard work was a theme with the Demons and the time spent in the weight room and practice field in the offseason created opportunities and victories in season.

‘Magic in the work’ is a motto for the coaching staff and because of the work the Demons attained success.

A few among many goals were defeating Solon, winning the Class 3A District 5 title and a state championship. Not every goal was achieved but just “winning’ was accomplished in a number of ways.

The Demons played with ambition and improved each game, developed into leaders, learned that individuals do not go far alone, embraced a ‘we versus me’ process, overcame adversity, worked on being good students and citizens and reaped numerous other benefits.

All from a game, the game of football. It provided the first of many great moments when the Demons found out there would be a season.

“After so much uncertainty with COVID-19, the best part for me was practice,” WHS coach James Harris said. “Helping players work on their craft, then being there Fridays when they put into practice what we have been working on.”

Great attitudes and effort in practice showed Harris his players would not take for granted the chance to compete, especially the seniors.

To appreciate the 19-10 defeat of Bettendorf after being down 10-0, or a road win against the nemesis team of Spartans, or giddy offensive numbers with three games of 62 or more points, one must know those results were not all talent, but desire and heart. Success in front of the crowd came from time spent when nobody was watching.

“Being District 5 champs was probably my favorite moment,” Harris said. “It was something the seniors and the rest of the team had made our mission for the season. It was great to complete that mission successfully.”

With a global pandemic raging, the commitment the Demons showed was an inspiration. The principles coaches tried to install through commitment, toughness, hard work, perseverance, discipline and family can only make players’ futures rewarding, coronavirus or not.

Harris was “very thankful for tremendous men” on his coaching staff in Don Miksch, Kurt Levetzow, Lane Ranck, Kelly Williams, Justin Chambers, Nic Williams, Jacob Garrett, and Shannon Rugg. “They pour themselves into our players. They care about them more than themselves, which is important to be a great coach.”

A coach’s job is to take people somewhere they want to go, but can’t get there on their own. Harris believes the coaches did that for the team.

“An enormous thank you must go out to players’ families for allowing them to put so much time into our program,” Harris said. “The time commitment our coaches make is a huge sacrifice.”

It is a sacrifice that Lindsay Vittetoe and Lilly Harris see every day from their fiance and father. The Demons are a microcosm of the community and reflect the core values seen in the team.

“That is special about our community,” Harris said. “I think everyone had an integral part of this season. Thank you Washington for all your support.”

With the goal of a state title and high hopes, the low of the season happened too soon, with the playoff loss to West Delaware.

“We are a talented team (so the loss) didn’t represent our true potential,” Harris said. “That’s on me as the head coach.”

Losing is a powerful teacher. One can only fail by quitting, and the Demons never quit.

The coronavirus refuses to quit infecting people and that provided a new hurdle to the Demon staff.

“Just getting all of the logistics organized before the season with the extra covid protocols was a challenge,” Harris said.

Losing players inseason at the drop of hat due contact tracing was frustrating, but with a team available, it was just plug the next man in and persevere.

“What a great testament to the players and the coaching staff having players ready,” Harris said.

Re-establishing routines after the covid layoff was difficult because the quarantine affected a lot of people’s time management skills. Being a student-athlete is a lot of commitment and discipline.

“I was very proud of how our players did this year in that regard,” Harris said. “We ask a lot of our players and they have lots of other commitments like a job, their family and their faith,”

There can be many ways to judge the success of a season and regardless of which measure used, the Demons were a complete success.