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Monday, March 21, 2011
A letter to Zach

Hey Zach.  Itís so inspiring to see how youíve progressed.  Itís great to see you on the road to recovery.

I noticed on a recent CaringBridge post that you are a little bummed about not being on the court with the team at State.  And you were a bit surprised that they called your name at the section award ceremony.

But there is something you need to know.  Youíre a very important part of this team, whether you are in uniform or not.  This team would not be where it is without you. 

You helped shape their game while on the floor with them the past 8-9 years.  You were very important in the 1st 11 games of the season, where the team needed your shooting and defensive play.  And now, you banded these guys together like they have never been before, and they are playing for you, probably more than for themselves.

Although my circumstances werenít nearly the same, I think I can relate a bit.  My cursed right knee only allowed me to play a handful of early-season games my senior year at Rocori High School.  My coach, Bob Brink, made me a ďplayer coachĒ to allow me to stay with the team.  It was there, on the bench in street clothes, where I watched my teammates reel off  win after win, to finish the season as 26-0 Class AA State Champs.

I know what itís like to sit on the side while your teammates are out on the court.  But know that you are out there with them, and they would not be there without you.

This team has worked very hard, and overcome quite a bit, to get to the Cities to see you.  Now, Zach, continue your hard work to overcome your situation, and get back home where an entire community waits to see you.

Posted By John George
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
What a great run for the Perham boys basketball team

What a miraculous run the Yellowjacket boys basketball team has been on.  Donít underestimate the pressure that a high school athlete can put on themselves to succeed.  And donít underestimate the mental strain of having one of their best friends face life-and-death circumstances.  Thankfully, it looks like Zach Gabbard is on a good path to recovery, even though he still has a long road ahead.

Iím sure most of you are aware of Wes Leonard, the Michigan basketball player who died after hitting a game-winning shot in his teamís district playoffs.  Not that we werenít all already tremendously grateful that the higher powers that be (I donít want to assume all of my readers have the same religious beliefs I have) helped Zach survive his ordeal, but seeing how fragile life can be when Wes was struck down really hit home, and made me appreciate Zachís life even more.

I was lucky enough to visit Zach a few weeks ago, but unfortunately, he was sleeping most of the time I was able to be there.  Iím really looking forward to seeing him again soon.  And Iím really proud to say I live in a town that can rally around one of itís own the way Perham has with Zach and his family.  Itís been very inspiring.

The whole story of the Jacket boyís team is inspiring.  Personally, Iíve known most of these kids for a long time.  I referee a lot of 5-8 grade basketball, and I got to see these guys at a young age, and watch them grow.  Iíve listened to Dave Cresap talk about the potential for this group for what seems like forever.  And now they are reaching that potential.

Cresap has built Perham into a program that will always be good.  As long as heís in charge, the days of five and six win seasons are gone.  Iím not saying they will be in contention for a trip to State every year, but who can?  To say you can put out a respectable, competitive team out on the floor, year-in, and year-out, is pretty good.  And heís proven over the last 10 years that heís capable of lifting a team to a 20-win season.  And heís capable of taking a talented team over the top.

I was lucky enough to play for one of the best coaches in Minnesota High School history, Rocoriís Bob Brink.  I was also lucky enough to play on a team that went to 2-straight Section 8AA Championship games, and as a senior, we went 26-0, winning the Class AA State Championship.  That was in the days of the two-class system, and we were the smallest school to win the 2-A title before the class format change.

Iíve seen a lot of good basketball players and coaches, and this team ranks with any of them.  They will hopefully get a chance to show the State after a win against Thief River Falls in the Section 8AA Championship on Friday, March 18 at Concordia College in Moorhead.  Tip-off is 6:30 p.m.

In an ironic twist, my Spartan team beat Thief River Falls in the Section 8AA Championship game on Friday, March 19, 1988 (Man, that would have been cool if it were the same date).  Hereís to Perham repeating that accomplishment.

Posted By John George
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