We've all experienced it.
It doesn't matter if you were in the band...if you were a cheerleader...even if you were a nerd...we have all experienced a high school football game. One game stands out in my memories of high school football.
It was a cool October night. It was one of the biggest games of the year for me and my football team. We were playing against a conference foe, Cheraw Braves. We needed to win this game to solidify our run to the playoffs. On a personal note, I needed to play well to impress the college coaches and recruiters who had come to the game.
It was late in the fourth quarter. We were down by five points. We were about to receive the ball. It would be our final drive in an attempt to score the winning touchdown. Until these final moments, I had played very well. It may have been one of my best games that season. I had caught 5 passes for more than 100 yards. We were losing by 5 points and there was 3 minutes left in the game.
Cheraw was about to punt the ball to us. I went back to receive the punt from the kicker. Earlier in the week, Cheraw's head coach had said that they were not "going to punt the ball to me because I was too dangerous in the open field." Such praise from an opposing head coach made me happy that he respected my game but he had held true to his word. They didn't kick the ball to me all night...except this last time.
I caught the punt...made a quick move to make 2 guys miss me...ran straight...dodged another 2 guys...then I raced toward the sidelines. I ran past a couple of dudes before somebody pushed me out of bounds. It was a 25 yard punt return and I had put us in good field position for our last drive. We only had one timeout left and time was not on our sides. We knew that this would be our last shot of winning the game. Cheraw was a tough team. Very well coached and disciplined. We were playing in their stadium and their crowd was going crazy. I remember standing in our huddle on offense and telling my teammates that we were gonna win the game. In my mind, I really believed it. I also believed that I would be the one who would score the winning touchdown.
The final drive started off well. Completed pass...1st down. Completed pass...1st down. Run...1st down. We were moving our way down the field. I was getting open but I didn't get the ball. Not a problem for me. I wanted to win. That's it. That's all that I cared about was winning. The individual accolades will come later but I was always focused on winning. I've always said that football (all sports) teach you lessons about life.
We're on our final play of the drive. There are only 22 seconds left in the game. We've got no time outs left. We're about 20 yards from scoring a touchdown. As I get to the line of scrimmage, I noticed that the pattern that I'm gonna run should be open. The ball is snapped to the quarterback. As I'm running my route, I bump into the defender and he falls down. Now...I'm wide open as I race toward the end zone. There is not another Cheraw player near me. I'm thinking...I'm wide open!!! I'm gonna score the game winning touchdown just as I had envisioned.
The quarterback sees me heading on my post route towards the end zone. He throws the ball to me...
The only thing I see is the brown football floating through the air.
I can't believe that this is gonna happen. The game winning touch down! Don't drop the ball Kyle!
As the ball approaches me, I prepare my hands to catch the ball and cradle it into my body...then...
Everything goes black...
Not only did I NOT catch the ball for the game winning touchdown...the pass was intercepted by Cheraw. It ended our comeback. It ended our shot at a conference title. And it hurt. I remember just laying on the ground in the end zone for what seemed like an eternity. We lost that game. I'll never forget it.
For the first time in my life, I was in tears after a football game. I cried. And I mean I cried like a baby. I never saw that dude from Cheraw. I was focused on that football and scoring the touchdown.
Lesson learned...even when you do your best...it isn't good enough for a win. Sometimes life will blindside you with something unforeseen. When that happens...you pick yourself up...and try even harder the next time.