Whittell needs a whole lot more like McMillen to turn around season | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell needs a whole lot more like McMillen to turn around season

Michael Traum

It was late in the third quarter last Saturday and the Warriors were helplessly behind Manogue, 34-12.

In need of some instant offense, it was time for a trick play. So on fourth down from its own half of the field, it was no surprise that Whittell decided to fake a punt.

Back in formation, Ryan McMillen took a deep snap and looked to pass. But before he knew it, he got plastered. Not just hit hard, but an unabated decleater that would’ve made any sushi chef smile. Whether someone ran the wrong route or an extra rusher went unblocked, the crunch left the senior motionless on the grass for about 30 seconds. Yet he dragged himself up, gathered his marbles and made the next tackle on defense.

It wasn’t the first time McMillen was slow getting up on the day. With his Warriors taking a pounding, en route to their fourth straight loss against no wins, he was playing his heart out. Countless times his number was called, both on offense and defense, and never once did McMillen relent. It was the kind of instinct that any true football fan would’ve paid big money to witness.

“Ryan has played that way for four years. The kid has no quit to him. We’re going, ‘Ryan, you all right,’ and he just ignores us, walks the other way. He doesn’t want to come out of the game,” said Whittell head coach Butch Cattanach.

After the game, the McMillen could barely talk, let alone move, while describing his day of battle. His team had been crushed and any thoughts of making the playoffs, not to mention getting a win, were slowly fading.

“I have no idea how I keep going. I am hurting – hurting,” said the half-dressed, battered and bruised senior in the locker room.

McMillen was on a mission. He was out to prove that he could play football at a level that Whittell has grown to earn a reputation in – all out, never stop, until the final siren.

The problem is, none of his teammates could sustain the same intensity. While McMillen was killing people and himself, his team limped behind him, making the easy look tough, the musts a maybe.

“(Ryan’s) a kid that gives a great effort on every play. I feel bad for guys like him, who play their hearts out all the time, and don’t get to experience the wins,” said Manogue head coach Tony Amantia.

What’s wrong with the Whittell football team this year? Only one kid is playing with the pure desire to win – Ryan McMillen.

Yes, they’re down in numbers. Yes, the skill positions aren’t as highly stocked as in the past. And yes, losing isn’t conducive to a winning attitude, especially when the likes of Manogue is staring at you across the ball.

But it’s nothing new for the small school. The Warriors have overcome more than that in the past, under the direction of Cattanach, to become a team that everyone in the league dreaded playing. Now, the Warriors are little more than padding for another team’s run to the playoffs.

“In years past, we’ve had other kids play that way and Ryan was just one of eight or nine. Right now, he’s the only one,” Cattanach said. “Ryan’s not a rah-rah guy, he’s not a cheerleader and, as a matter of fact, he’s not very sociable. But when he gets on the field, he plays the game the way it was intended to be played, his 150-pound body smashing into guys twice as big as him. It’s a credit to him. I just wish more of the kids would play by his example.”

If the rest of the boys follow McMillen’s lead, simply give 100 percent for 48 minutes in both their hearts and heads, the Warriors have a chance to chalk the win column this weekend in their homecoming game against Incline.

And McMillen may get the ultimate payoff for his determination – a senior-year victory.

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