In the great football tradition, Cicero-North Syracuse has touted a theme, suitable for a T-shirt, during practices for the 2010 season that starts Friday night at Christian Brothers Academy - "The Last Play".
But it came about in a matter that no Northstars player, coach or fan ever wanted.
On Aug. 10, six days before practices got underway, during a seven-on-seven non-contact drill on the Bragman Stadium turf, returning senior Blake Monday made a routine cut - and his knee gave way. It was diagnosed as a torn ACL, and Monday was out for the season.
To call this loss devastating might be an understatement. Monday was, according to CNS head coach Steve Ellis, "the best player on the team", expected to start at tailback and cornerback and return both punts and kicks. His presence on the field was crucial, given that the Northstars had to replace most of its other skill players from 2009.
"He was our main guy, a terrific leader and first-class kid," Ellis said. "You couldn't find anything wrong with him, on and off the field."
Now, in a split-second, that was gone - but Monday has handled it well, Ellis said. He has attended every practice and, like an assistant coach, has offered all kinds of pointers to the players saddled with the unenviable task of filling his void.
He also gave the Northstars that "Last Play" mantra - as in, every play could be the last one, so make it count.
"You never know when that (last play) could happen, so you've got to give a full effort all the time and leave it all out there," Ellis said.
Monday's injury just added to the frustrations CNS has felt, which date back to last year's double-overtime loss to Corcoran in the Class AA playoffs. Overcoming those frustrations will require a host of new players to assume larger roles in a hurry.