BLANCHARD — Bridge Creek football coach Greg Wallis opened the door to an empty 12-foot-by-14-foot room next to the team locker room.
It used to be the coaches’ office for him and his staff. Now, their desk chairs sit outside, covered in paint. Their computers are around the corner, ruined after being soaked in bleach.
A flat-screen television hangs on the wall, oddly untouched by vandals who seemed determined to destroy everything in the Bridge Creek fieldhouse last week.
Nearly every piece of equipment — helmets, shoulder pads, blocking dummies, footballs — was damaged, slashed or drenched in some kind of liquid that left it unusable.
High school football practice started across the state Monday, but the Bobcats had much more on their minds than blocking drills and pass routes.
“Everybody else is starting their first practice today, but we can’t. We don’t have the equipment we need,” said senior Mason Trevino. “But we’re working on getting all that stuff. We’re kind of set back at the moment, but we can’t look back from here. Just keep moving forward.”
Seventeen of the team’s 50 helmets were unharmed, and a few more were able to be saved, but needed to be professionally reconditioned.
Southmoore High School, which knows about loss after several players had their homes destroyed in the tornado of May 20, 2013, was one of the first to step up with some donation items, including one pressing need — footballs. All but one of Bridge Creek’s balls was punctured.
The vandals used whatever they could find inside the fieldhouse, and brought some of their own chemicals to do as much damage as possible. They used rat poison, bleach, laundry detergent, toilet cleaner and carpet glue. They pushed a soda machine over and destroyed paper documents that included things like the players’ proof of preseason physical exams.
Externally, the investigation to find the guilty parties is ongoing. Internally, the Bobcats are still trying to assess the damage and clean it up, while also trying to start their season.
Wallis already knows the total of the damages will exceed $50,000, and by the time all of it is added up, it could be well more than that.
“Replacing this floor is $30,000 alone,” Wallis said, looking down at the green artificial turf that runs through the locker room and weight room. “Helmets and shoulder pads and footballs — those things add up pretty fast.”
Two helmet companies were sending a representative to Bridge Creek early in the week. Along with the footballs donated by Southmoore, and some more from Wal-Mart, the Bobcats could be on the field for some non-padded workouts this week.
“We’re getting closer,” Wallis said. “It’s a process.”
Of course, getting on the field for practice is only a piece of the process. There’s still hours of clean-up to be done, insurance estimates to be filed and replacement items to be purchased.
But the Bobcats are digging deep to find the positive side of this act of pure malice.
Especially at a small school like Bridge Creek, players tend to take ownership of their locker room, their weight room, their equipment. And rather than being consumed by what happened to them, they’re focused on building back what they had, and making it better than before.
The team’s new motto is, “The process begins here.”
“We want to move forward together. Forget what happened,” senior quarterback Jimmy Wynne said. “This is just another bump. We’ve been through some bumps, so I think we’ll bounce back from it pretty easily.”