'It's really emotional'

'It's really emotional'

DeKALB — Shortly after the turn of the most recent century, Mike Allen was just getting started as Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's football coach.

At the same time, current Tuscola coach Andy Romine was serving as an assistant for then-Fisher football coach Matt Lang.

The Falcons and Bunnies played each other during the regular season, so it's no surprise Allen and Romine — who coached their respective teams in separate state championship games on Friday at Huskie Stadium — would cross paths. But how they first did is a unique story.

Romine, who lived right near GCMS' Falcon Field when working for Fisher, would silently observe Allen's practices from just beyond the fence.

"I was a football junkie, and I was 22 and I wanted to be a football coach," Romine said. "This was probably his third or fourth year, they hadn't won a ton, but that was the point they started to turn the corner."

Was Allen a fan of an opposing assistant viewing his workouts? Well, he never had a chance to voice his opinion, as he knew nothing of Romine's practice appearances until this week.

"Really? Tell him that's illegal, he can't be doing that stuff," Allen said with a laugh. "No, no. He's a good guy. He's a tremendous coach, and the success he's had, he's a student of the game."

Romine said he probably should've introduced himself to Allen at some point, but admitted he was concerned Allen wouldn't want him around if he knew just who was watching practices from a distance.

"I wasn't trying to steal stuff," Romine said. "I was trying to learn something, quite honestly. And I did."

Romine said the Falcons' practice tempo appealed to him, as did a "belief system" Romine said he could sense was in place.

"I was just like, I'm 22, I don't really know anything about anything," Romine said. "But as a casual observer, it just felt like it was done the right way."

That last point is a fair assessment, especially considering Allen's Falcons played for the 2A state crown Friday against Maroa-Forsyth.

And it would appear Romine did garner some ideas from watching those practices, as he led the Warriors to Friday's 1A final against Lena-Winslow in his third season as Tuscola's coach.

"You take it as a compliment, as a young coach coming to look," Allen said. "That's what coaches do: They pick up anything they can when they can."

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Tuscola was going to celebrate its football team regardless of Friday's result. That much athletic director Ryan Hornaday knew earlier this week.

What he wasn't aware of was whether the Warriors would bring with them the 1A championship or runner-up trophy. It turned out to be the latter.

Still, Hornaday said the celebratory reception, which took place in Tuscola's gym on Friday evening, was something the school had to hold.

"It's of the utmost importance," Hornaday said. "Playing Friday isn't just a result of winning last Saturday. It started a long time ago, in building the program decades ago, (and) with these kids last December."

Hornaday said he expected plenty of tears at the display.

"It's really emotional," he said. "I remember in 2006 I almost couldn't talk as an assistant coach there. It all pours out."

* * * 

Cade Kresin typically has one thing to consistently take care of for Tuscola: Kicking extra points.

The junior boots the ball for the Warriors — after touchdowns, on field goal attempts, for kickoffs and for punts.

That last task is something Tuscola didn't do a whole lot of heading into Friday's game against Lena-Winslow, something Kresin acknowledged.

"We don't really punt much here," Kresin said. "We're normally a pretty good team."

A sloppy, disjointed first half in the 1A state final saw Kresin getting a workout, though. In addition to converting a PAT, Kresin punted four times.

Three of those came with a whipping wind at his back, helping the Warriors in the field position battle.

But none of those kicks likely made Kresin feel quite the way he did after a particular effort in last week's state semifinal win against Athens.

In the fourth quarter of that game, Kresin sent a long, high kick inside the Athens 20. It bounced toward the end zone before Dalton Hoel dove and touched the ball dead at the 1.

"That punt was one of my favorite punts of my career," Kresin said. "That was the first big punt I've ever really had, and it worked out pretty well."

Kresin has been kicking since his days in junior football League, though his penchant for booting the ball dates back to having fun at recess in sixth grade.

The 6-foot athlete said he's been putting a good amount of effort in at the oft-overlooked position, something that will only continue heading into his senior year.

"I've been working in the offseason just getting my leg stronger," Kresin said. "First thing pre-practice and during practice, (the coaches have) just been helping me. And this year has been one of the best so far for me."