Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Field of Battle

Sometimes young boys become young men on the field of battle. Such was the case last Friday night for my nephew Max Nelson and the rest of the 2012 Manistique Emeralds high school football team.

They entered their last regular season game with a 5 and 3 record and a chance, if they won, to advance to the high school football playoffs for the first time in many years.

It had been raining off and on throughout the day and the field conditions were slippery. That did come into play a bit. Max, a sure-handed receiver, dropped a touchdown pass in the endzone. He wasn't the only player to do so during the evening. Both team moved the ball up and down the field before the other defense would stiffen and the ball would be turned over on downs. At the end of regulation play the score was tied at 6.

I'd never seen a high school game go into overtime. Each team gets it at their opponents' 10 yard line with four downs to score. Both teams failed to score and they went into a second overtime. That's when things got interesting. The Emeralds kept the Harbor Springs Rams out of the endzone, in fact backing them up in the process. When the Emeralds got the ball they were having a tough time trying to get the ball in the endzone and their quarterback was sacked on one play, but an opposing player stood over the QB and taunted him. The Rams were called for unsportsmanlike conduct and Manistique got the ball at the one.

On the final play the Emeralds faked the ball to their go-to running back and handed off to another. They scored and the Emeralds won 12 to 6. Parents and family couldn't have been more proud of those young men. The four captains linked arms when they went on the field for the overtime coin toss to see who would get the ball first. They celebrated on the field and some cried as they left it, including Max. They were tears of joy and perhaps fatigue over a hard fought win.

It was a defining moment for them and one that I am glad I got a chance to see. That's Max number 80 in the photo from one of his earlier games. He's a little older, wiser and stronger now.

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