This one is for Bendo.
That's what came to mind after Heidelberg defeated Baldwin-Wallace, 35-34 Saturday to secure a 9-1 season and a potential trip to the Division III playoffs.
Jason Bendekovic, the beloved offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for Heidelberg died suddenly during the 2010 season.
The assistant started at Heidelberg in 2006 under then-coach Brian Cochran. The Student Princes went winless that year, stretching its losing streak to 36 games.
Mike Hallett arrived to coach Heidelberg in 2010, and he kept Bendekovic on his staff. Bendekovic was there for the beginning and middle of the turnaround, but wasn't around to see what the Princes have become.
That's a shame, because he would have loved what happened Saturday. The offensive line played brilliantly. Quentin Rembert, who was recruited by Bendekovic and was very close with him, not only starred on the line, but was involved in the biggest play for Heidelberg in decades - blocking a potential game winning BW field goal.
"I know (Bendekovic) was looking down for us," Rembert said. "He wasn't here, he hasn't been here with us. We haven't beaten (Baldwin Wallace) since he left, so this really means a lot for us.
"It felt great for us to do this for him."
One of the most remarkable things about Heidelberg's turnaround has been the remarkable confidence from the coaching staff that it would happen.
It all starts with Hallett, but he wasn't the only one. In the days after Bendekovic died, I spoke with Corey Fillipovich, the program's defensive line coach.
Fillipovich told me that even when times were down, Bendekovic was always optimistic, always certain Heidelberg was heading for great things.
He was, of course, absolutely right.
Other names popped into my mind today when the game ended: Steve West, the quarterback who had more injuries than wins in his career, but who was instrumental in leading Heidelberg to a four-win season in Hallett's first year.
Jemar Lewis, one of the nicest guys around, who combined with Kenny Sims to create a powerful 1-2 punch in the running game a few years ago, helping to build a tradition of outstanding running backs during the Hallett era. Lewis is now a graduate assistant for HU. So is Matt Grieves, a star defensive lineman for the Princes a few years ago, and Andrew Miller, the former HU quarterback.
It was great to see them celebrate. They were here for the building years; they deserve to be here for this.
Then there's Mike Preston, the former Heidelberg receiver who's now on the practice squad with the Tennessee Titans. Preston keeps close watch on his former team, and tweeted his congratulations when the game was over.
It's taken six years for Heidelberg to go from winless to playoff contenders. It's been a ride with ups, downs, triumphs and tragedy.
It's about the players on the field, but it's also those who played, coached, built, in previous years.
This one's for Bendo, and so many others.