By Aaron Reiss
Eagle Editorial Board
The Eagle football team’s game against the Rice Consolidated on Aug. 31 included a series of firsts.
The victory over the Raiders marked the first time for the program to start a season 1-0 since 2001.
For senior linebacker Hunter Pallasch, the win included another first: first football game to ever play in.
While there are multiple seniors either playing football for the first time or picking up the sport again after quitting as sophomores, Pallasch is the only newcomer to start; he is a key contributor to the Eagles, playing every defensive snap and helping the team start 4-0 for the first time since 1968.
Four years ago, Pallasch thought he would never be a football player.
“Going into [my] freshmen year at St. Thomas I really wasn’t into football,” Pallasch said. “I saw it as a thing that you grow up into. I didn’t play in middle school. I’d been playing baseball all my life, so I figured I’d just play baseball.”
The encouragement of classmates, some of whom Pallasch now calls teammates, helped him decide to join the football team as a senior.
“I was one of the ones that encouraged him to play,” senior captain Jack Reidy said. “I told him he’d really like it.”
One question that Reidy posed struck out in Pallasch’s mind.
“When I was talking to Jack he said, ‘how’s it going to feel when we beat Strake? Do you want to be on the field or in the stands?’” Pallasch said.
It was a feeling of elation for the newcomer after the Eagles downed the Crusaders 17-14, beating their rivals for the first time in 14 years.
“I noticed after the Strake game how happy he was that he played,” Reidy said.
While Pallasch is glad he joined the team, he admits playing football for the first time is a learning process.
The difference in pace between baseball and football is a transition for the senior.
“Baseball is start and stop,” Pallasch said. “[In] football [there] is always somewhere to be and [you are] always running. You’re always in contact.”
Pallasch played fullback during spring football. Moving over to linebacker at the beginning of the season made picking up the sport for the first time even harder.
“It was really hard at first,” Pallasch said. “Coach [Richard] McGuire and Coach [Tim] Fitzpatrick were really helpful.”
“Having not played his whole life, I think he’s really come along fast the past four games,” Reidy said of Pallasch’s learning curve. “It has been very impressive to see that he can make adjustments quickly.”
McGuire, too, sees lots of potential in the newcomer.
Pallasch reminds McGuire of a player he coached in Oklahoma, who chose to play for the first time as a senior.
The player ended up being an all-district selection, an accolade McGuire said he expects Pallasch to receive as well.
“His biggest strength is that he works very hard,” McGuire said. “He’s very conscientious about trying to do a good job and learn the position. Everyday he gets better.”
Pallasch said that his dad, a former lineman at Texas Christian University, also helps him with learning the game.
“My dad never played linebacker, but he’s played football and he knows what the various positions should be doing,” Pallasch said.
His father even grades his play.
“It’s good see my grades have improved,” Pallasch said. “[I want] to almost perfect [the position] to the point where I don’t have to think and I can just do it.”
Being part of the team, Pallasch has developed an appreciation for the work that is required of football players – something he did not fully grasp when he was a fan.
“You have a team of forty or fifty guys and you work throughout the week. Your whole week is working up to Friday night,” Pallasch said. “It means more being on the team than it does being in the stands.”
Student-athletes like Pallasch choosing to play football for the first time is significant not only because of their contributions, but also for what means to the football program.
Players choosing to play football for the first time shows that recent success has changed the perception of the team in students’ minds.
“Making it to the [TAPPS state] semi-finals [last year] got a lot of guys to come out,” Reidy said. “High schoolers want to be a part of something fun, and winning is fun.”
Fitzpatrick thinks it is only natural that more athletes will join the team as the winning continues.
“Nobody wants to be a part of a losing team. Success is something that’s contagious,” Fitzpatrick said. “People want to be a part of winning.”
Now, all Pallasch wants is to make up for lost time. He has only one goal.
“Ultimately, as a team our goal is to a win a state championship,” Pallasch said.
He is willing to accomplish this any way he can.
“I just got here,” Pallasch said. “All I want to do is contribute.”