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KING HIGH: As the nation awoke Monday morning to the horrific news of yet another gunman taking aim at innocent bystanders, this time in Las Vegas with 59 dead, all else seemed to fade into blur by comparison. Certainly,  sports, games, and play become completely trivial in the dark shadows of tragedy and barbarity.

As the Wolves suited up for Big 8 league play against the Huskies of Centennial on Monday, two of their own, Riley Smith and Will Tibbetts would have been excused if their emotions weren’t the normal nervousness and enthusiasm for the impending game.

No, if the boys harbored feelings of relief, shock, grief and confusion, it would have been understandable. You see, both of their parents were in the crowd there at the concert in Las Vegas Sunday evening. Their parents were among the thousands who were ducking for cover and administering aid to the wounded, they were among the many wondering when the carnage would end, if they’d get out alive.

Winning a water polo game may be fun, but it doesn’t compare to the phone call that confirmed all was well for the Smith and Tibbetts families after the horrific chaos of a Sunday night massacre in Vegas.

Add one more emotion to the boys’ day: Gratitude

“I had found out they were OK Sunday night but was still worried about them and wanted to know what happened. During the warm-ups for the game I kept looking over for them but never saw them walk in. Then during the first quarter I made a pass to an open teammate, who missed a shot, but I heard my mom cheering to “get them next time” and I was immediately thankful. After the game was the best because she ran up and hugged me.” Smith said.

It was into that situation the team played in their opening Big 8 game of 2017.  Remarkably, considering the circumstances, they played extremely tough and earned a big win 19-3.

“Our first league game of the season and we opened it up with a great ‘W'” said Coach Rahn, aware of the contradiction of sorts that life and games often present.

But, after the challenging pre-season his boys have had, Rahn had every reason to smile.

“Some of our hard work has payed off.” he went on.  “However, we have more tough contests ahead now that league play has started. We will need to continue to climb to reach our PEAK and must understand the difference between working hard and going through the motions.”

Remarkably, Riley Smith played exceptionally well, as he had over the weekend in the Villa Park tournament.

Smith described the game this way: “as a team, we have defiantly learned and improved over the past 2 or 3 months and it showed in this game. Playing harder and very skilled teams has prepared us, as a team, to take on the league.”

With 19 total points, the team feasted on a porous Husky defense.  Fabian Sandoval and Adam Serrano had two goals a piece.  Michael Mallick and Keven Shearer had 3 goals each.  Jesse Ramirez had two and 8 others threw in one a each to finish the onslaught.  Will Tibbetts was one of those with a goal.  “He played very well – is very talented” Rahn said of the freshman, who like his older teammate had much to be grateful for.

“We were versatile, despite our youth.” Rahn said. “We had many different athletes contribute … many of which are underclassmen.”

King travels to Santiago on Wednesday to continue Big 8 League action.  The Wolves may be young and owning a pre-season record of 3-10, but a win like this one may give them what they need to press on well.

That, and gratitude for things that really matter.