Editor's note: This is another installment of "Extra Points," a weekly series of stories that look at high school football away from the Friday night spotlight.
CLONMEL — St. John's Catholic Church was a hub of activity on Friday’s sunny but cool morning.
Several shovels clanked harshly against large dirt clods, while others pounded into the hard, rocky ground. Through the sounds of physical labor came the banter and frequent laughter of 90 green- and gold-clad high school football players.
Bishop Carroll didn't have school Friday because of parent-teacher conferences, which was an opportunity for most students to sleep in. For coach Alan Schuckman, it was the ideal chance to bring his team together for a day of community service and fun.
"I like kids who are in a routine," said Schuckman, whose team played Liberal on Friday night in a Class 5A-District 8 game. "If they're in school, it's the best thing. But we'll use (this day off) as an advantage, not a disadvantage."
The morning was full of work at the small parish southwest of Wichita, whose priest, Father Jarrod Lies, is Carroll's chaplain. But the day was mixed with fun, too. It included a team lunch, an afternoon showing of the movie “Secretariat,” followed by another team meal at school before the game.
"I like today," Danny Crippen said. "æ.æ.æ. It's good for the team if we're all spending time together. It's better than sleeping."
At 10 a.m., Lies spoke to the players, telling them how important their work was, telling them it was saving the parish between $2,000 and $3,000. Then he broke them up into groups.
Two players painted a room, another group sanded cabinets, another organized the shed. Others, such as Alex Hill, teetered on ladders and carefully pried the covers off fluorescent lightbulbs in order to replace them.
The offensive linemen, who were told by Schuckman to bring shovels, went out to do the toughest work of digging holes for the sprinkler system. The wide receivers, who brought rakes, smoothed out dirt in the yard.
Crippen was one of a group of players who marched down the sidewalk — shovel handles hitting the pavement — singing, "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go."
Before putting on the sprinkler head, Aaron Jackson spoke softly into one end of a green hose, then laughed when a teammate heard him at the other end, 20 feet away.
It was a successful day, and the players appreciated what they were accomplished, primarily because it helped Lies, who is close with most of the students at Carroll and is a staple on the sideline at sporting events.
Lies, assisted during the team mass by players Luke Downing and Austin Armstrong, spoke frankly during his short sermon.
"To be a chaplain at Bishop Carroll is such an incredible privilege because of who you are," Lies said. "æ.æ.æ. If you want to be a true leader, then a true leader is a servant first. If you're a servant, you have to be humble, to think of others as more important than yourself."
As the mass neared its end, the players sang in unison, their deep voices ringing throughout the sanctuary.
"I think this is really important for our faith," Alec Maly said. "We're taught to do our stewardship and give our time. That's what we're doing. We're giving our time and talents."
Lies dismissed them from mass and the hungry teenage boys raced to get to the front of the line near the kitchen.
Then it was on to watching “Secretariat.” Shortly before the movie, assistant Chris Jaax walked into the theater to tell the players that they needed to be on their best behavior because they were representing Carroll. His message got through to the other moviegoers, who also stopped speaking.
As the movie began, heads began to nod — even Schuckman managed a catnap — although there were still scattered "ewwww" when the foal was born.
Schuckman's drive back to Carroll was broken up by a call from Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling. They talked about Liberal's players, made other small talk.
Then it was on to the team meal.
And then on to the real fun of the day — the game.