Amid the shouts of "I feel so good" by an exuberant band of St. Petersburg Green Devils football players Friday night stood their coach, Dusty Boylson, harboring a wide sweep of emotions. The elation of a 31-27 victory over arch-rival Lakewood would suddenly be swept away by the sadness within, but still Boylson stood strongly. The embrace of Lakewood coach Rich Ninis after the game brought tears. Among his players who were beside themselves with glee, Boylson allowed his emotions to show.
"I promised them I would never not be there when they needed me and they needed me tonight," Boylson said, fighting back tears and explaining why at 4 p.m. Friday he decided his place was on the sidelines rather than elsewhere grieving the death last weekend of his 1-year-old daughter.
"I had a long talk with myself, a long talk," Boylson said as his wife Kathy came to his side. "Actually, I talked with another person and that person convinced me to come.
"I, myself, wasn't prepared for this game. My assistant coaches coached the kids all week."
Perhaps it was emotion that charged the Green Devils to a come-from-behind victory, but Boylson offered another thought.
"The kids developed a little bit of hunger," he said. "They had their minds made up they were going to score. Our kids had so much class in the second half."
The Green Devils trailed 21-14 at the half, after the Spartans scored three touchdowns in the last three minutes, and fell behind 27-17. The Devils scored 14 points in the fourth quarter for the victory, their second in seven games.
"They were just up for the game with all the hardship they've gone through this week," Lakewood's Ninis said.
Dusty Boylson, his arm wrapped around his wife, whom he called "the most beautiful woman in the world," finally had some joy to grab onto for a while after a very sad week.