“It’s unbelievable; words can’t describe the feeling,” High School All American captain Calvin Whiting beamed after the Boys Elite 7s final. The USA defeated the British Columbia U18s 19-14 inside Sam Boyd Stadium. But it is a feeling with which Whiting is familiar. A returner from the 2013 LVI championship team that also played and beat BC, the South Africa native has been chasing this repeat performance all year.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life; I still get goose bumps to this day,” Whiting remembered the first LVI title. “It’s been a motivator in getting that feeling again. It’s just great to be here with these guys and in front of a wonderful crowd.”
But before the HSAA could hoist that trophy above their heads, and before worrying about their opponents themselves, the All Americans had to manage the experience of the stadium. Again, Whiting came in handy.
“Last year I was super nervous to come in [to Sam Boyd Stadium], and this year I got the boys in a circle and just said: Seize this moment and remember what this is like, because this is what you’re going to be playing in for the next 14 minutes,” Whiting instructed. “They got it. You couldn’t hear each other because it’s so loud but you could see the smiles on their faces.”
It helped that the All Americans were able to put the first two tries on the board. Whiting opened up the scoring himself, taking a long breakaway beneath the posts. Hanco Germishuys followed, as the team worked the width and opened up some space for the corner try. BC ran one in before the buzzer, but Seth Halliman’s score in the second half gave the USA enough cushion to ultimately make BC’s second try a non-factor, 19-14.
“A little close for comfort, that score at the end," Whiting said. "There are always things you need to work on, but it’s always worth it when you come out with a win in the end. No one really stood out. We all said that playing like individuals isn’t worth it, that we needed to play as a team and keep each other’s back.”
Two years running, the High School All Americans are the LVI champs, and now a whole new set of players have that unique stadium feeling to chase in 2015.