If you glance at the helmets of most high school football players, right away you will notice some sort of decal stuck to each side. Sometimes, the decal is a school logo, a school mascot, a number or letter.
But if you look closer, there can also be little individual stickers that cover the rest of the helmet. The stickers, which are a little bigger than a quarter, are known as pride or spirit stickers.
Every Thursday afternoon, the Bret Harte coaches reward their players with new stickers to put on their helmets for the upcoming game. Stickers aren’t just handed out without reason. Quite the opposite. In order to get a sticker – whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams – the player must have done something that is bigger than just an average play.
“It has to be above and beyond,” Bret Harte interim head coach Kelly Osborn said. “As an offensive lineman, you always block the guy in front of you and we are expecting that. But, if you get a pancake block, you get a sticker for that because it’s above and beyond.”
Bret Harte’s helmets have stickers for offensive plays, defensive plays, big hits and big games. For senior Jeremiah Paulson, seeing his helmet slowly start to get covered with stickers is validation of his hard work and dedication.
“I didn’t have any stickers the past three years and this year, I’ve got a few,” Paulson said. “So, it’s nice to see those accomplishments.”
And of all the stickers that cover Paulson’s purple helmet, which is his favorite?
“The skull sticker feels the most rewarding,” Paulson said. “It’s basically the tough guy sticker.”
Being rewarded for individual play with helmet stickers is nothing new. In fact, Osborn had stickers on his helmet when he was a Bret Harte football player.
“When I played here, we had skulls and crossbones for defensive play, stars for offensive play and footballs were for scores,” Osborn said.
After a while, former Bret Harte head coach Hal Clements did away with the skulls and crossbones and replaced them with purple lips. That’s right, lips.
“Coach Clements changed the whole philosophy (of Bret Harte football) and our motto was ‘Kiss and have a good time,’” Osborn said. “So, when someone got a good hit, he’d say, ‘Lipper.’ We had white stickers with purple lips and that’s what went on the back of our helmets when we had a good hit.”
While the lips are no more, Bret Harte does hand out a gold star, a purple O, a yellow D and the infamous skull and crossbones. Bret Harte is not the only school to wear pride stickers on their helmets. When junior lineman Thomas Grant sees an opposing player whose helmet is covered with stickers, he knows he’s in for a battle.
“When I go up against a guy who has a lot of stickers, I know he’s someone who can finally challenge me,” Grant said.
As for the stickers on Grant’s helmet, they are reminders of jobs well done.
“The more stickers I get, the more it shows that I’m doing my job,” he said.
When players get their stickers every Thursday afternoon, they are given them in front of their teammates. Osborn feels that is a good way for the team to recognize hard work and good play from the previous week.
“It’s definitely good for the kids to get a little bit of team recognition,” Osborn said. “We give them out in front of the whole team, so they get to see what an individual does, as far as for that individual game.”
Bret Harte hopes to stop the skid
Bret Harte hasn’t had a good start to the Mother Lode League season. In two games, the Bullfrogs are 0-2. And in those two games, which were losses to Amador and Sonora, Bret Harte has been outscored 111-0.
The Bullfrogs may have the right opponent in Argonaut to get their first league win of the season. Argonaut is 2-5 overall and 1-1 in league play. However, Argonaut had to go to double overtime Oct. 11 in order to beat Summerville 7-0. Before that, the Mustangs lost to Sonora 34-3.
While on paper Bret Harte has a good shot at being competitive with Argonaut, history may beg to differ. Bret Harte has not beaten Argonaut since the 2001 season, which makes it 17 straight wins for the Mustangs. What does that mean for the Bullfrogs? They are due for a victory.