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Congratulations to Coach Jerry Franks and the St. Mary’s Ryken Knights varsity football team. A 7-3 record is outstanding in just the school’s fifth season of varsity football.

I want to walk down memory lane a moment, and recall the first season of Ryken football, 2006. Coach Bob Harmon and the administration of SMR stuck their collective necks out and began a high school football program at an established institution that had many time-honored, tried and truly successful sports programs.

They built a program, starting with about 40 (give or take) high school freshmen — that’s 13- and 14-year-olds, almost beginning to physically develop, adolescent boys. What an experience. One win and nine losses, but in the game and with improvements every week.

The next three years included a 6-4 junior varsity year (2007), with a couple-point loss to powerhouse Gonzaga and a victory over the perennially powerful St. John’s team.

Then, in its first varsity season, the varsity Knights won their first game, 35-0, and were leading a powerful John Carroll team 7-0 at halftime in 95-degree weather.

Suffice it to say that the rest of that first varsity season was a true learning experience.

Finally in 2009, the fourth year, Knights’ football took the field every game expecting a win; and each of the 10 games, they played hard and well, and finished that season with a 4-6 varsity record.

The foundation was set — and all of this without a home school football field. In 2010, the athletic field was completed, and Coach Harmon bid farewell to the 15 or 16 seniors who had walked onto the practice field that steaming hot August day in 2006 and helped an institution build a new, great athletic activity at St. Mary’s Ryken High School.

Coach Bob Harmon is gone now. So are the original young men who pioneered the football program at SMR.

Thanks to Coach Jerry Franks for coming to SMR to lead the Knights. What a thrill it was when I watched him and his team at work at the one game I managed to attend. Though that was not a victory, I observed teamwork and positive interactions between players and coaches alike. I knew that SMR and the Knights are on their way to a top-of-the-line, productive and fun football program.

As for the original pioneers of St. Mary’s Ryken football, stop by their field. Watch a game.

And make sure you take a look at the plaque just outside the stadium gate. It honors those boys who have grown from boys to men, who are now well into their college careers, or serving in the military or in the workforce. It honors them, the original coaches and the St. Mary’s Ryken administrators who took that first step and built the foundation on which Coach Jerry Franks and his Knights are building a future powerhouse football program.

Bill Arick, Leonardtown