The Last Season for the Senior Football Boys

Camden Nichols, Lead Copy Editor

16th April, 2021

Seven seniors on the AHS football team this year are congratulated on their achievements and time spent at AHS on last Friday, April 9, 2021. Seniors from left to right: Mason Nichols, Austin Mitchell, Dylan Kile, Teagan Hesseltine, Robby Dieker, Coleman Barker, Jack Baca. (Photo Credit: Camden Nichols)

It’s easy to say that this year hasn’t been the easiest, especially for teens who rely on social interaction to make their days better. Luckily, for students who would like to go back, there is that option now. Overall, school and sports were put on hold for more than half of the school year and once sports started, they were jammed together to make sure they were all able to finish them before the school year ended. 

All sports have to go through major protocols to make sure athletes stay safe while interacting with each other and other teams. When the football team has a game, they can only bring five spectators per person and each of those five people have to have tickets to be able to get in, so the crowd doesn’t overflow. 

Last Friday, April 9, was the football boys’ Senior Night. Senior Nights acknowledge the seniors on the team and the crowd is able to applaud them on the achievements they have made over the past four years. Each senior is allowed to bring family or close friends on the field who walk up with them and usually give them a bouquet of flowers or other fun gifts to show how proud they are of them. There were seven senior football players this year who were congratulated and applauded for their hard work and dedication to this game and their team. Those seniors were Jack Baca, who plays defensive end and tackle on offense, Coleman Barker, middle-linebacker on defense and receiver on offense, Robby Dieker, middle-linebacker and guard on offense, Teagan Hesseltine, d-tackle on defense and guard on offense, Dylan Kile, outside linebacker on defense, Austin Mitchell, offensive tackle, and Mason Nichols, who plays outside linebacker on defense and running back on offense.

This Senior Night was obviously not the most ideal for the players or what they are used to, but they have great attitudes about how different this year was from past years. The crowd was very limited because of social distancing and the rule about each player only being able to bring five people. Even though this wasn’t the year they imagined, the crowd still roared with admiring fans who were very proud of these boys. The players were also allowed to bring family members and loved ones onto the field, this time just with masks. 

When asked if the season was the best it could have been, giving the circumstances, Coleman Barker, Robby Dieker, and Mason Nichols had slightly different opinions.

 Barker answered this question by saying, “I think so because we are happy to have been playing at all and we are lucky to be playing five games instead of zero. This season could’ve been a lot better, but we aren’t really in a situation to complain. My ideal season this year would be like every other season has been, but I’m happy with what we got.” Dieker explained that he believes that the coaches and players made the best of this unique situation, but it was definitely a bummer they weren’t able to have a full season and a postseason. 

Mason Nichols replied to this question with, “I think that since we weren’t able to play a practice game, coming into this season for our first game, we weren’t as fundamentally sound because we didn’t get those first game jitters out and weren’t able to learn what it was like playing an opposing team.” Nichols then agreed with Dieker about changing the amount of games they would be able to play and also added that not having a lot of fans hyping them up really changes things. Getting their different perspectives on this season was really interesting because each player went through their own process of getting through their last season and making it the best of all. 

This trio was then asked to describe their high school football careers in one sentence. If anyone knows Coleman Barker at all, they know that he sometimes likes to go forge his own path instead of following what he is told, so he answered this question with two sentences (which he found very funny), “My time spent with AHS football has been one of the most memorable and important experiences of my life. It has taught me integrity and good work ethic, and I hope to be able to apply these lessons to whatever careers I pursue in the future.” 

Dieker, who has been on the team for all four years, playing alongside Barker, replied, “It’s easily the highlight of my time at AHS and has given me good work ethic and unforgettable memories.” 

And, last, but not least, Nichols, who has been on the team for the last two years of high school, took a minute to think about this, and then answered by saying, “Enjoy the little moments with your teammates because before you realize it they will be gone.”

It wasn’t just the pandemic that made Senior Night a little different this year. While the seniors accepted their applause on the field, fans and teammates couldn’t help but notice that one athlete was missing. Everett Halikas, who played cornerback on defense and running back on offense for the Tigers for three years, sadly passed away in March of 2020. Friday would have been his Senior Night as well. He will forever be a Tiger and will be in every single classmates’ and teammates’ hearts. He was such a bright soul and that big smile will never fade away. Arcata High sends love to his family and will never forget how much of an impact he had on our lives. 

Even with difficult circumstances this year, this team made the best of what they were given and did a great job. A big congratulations to these seniors who were able to show our community what a family looks like and how to follow your dreams, even when you have to go through thick and thin to reach the top.