Alas. . .
7M's football team lost a heart-breaker in the Division 5 State Championship game at the big domed stadium in Detroit, to the defending state champs. The final score was 24-20, and we can take some small comfort from the fact that it was one of the more intense, competitive, exciting games of the championship weekend (Michigan crowns 8 state champions, in divisions according to enrollment). . .
Our guys started off slowly, making uncharacteristic mistakes (it's possible they were in awe, or at least a bit jittery, at the whole ambiance of the dome, and the championship stakes), and fell behind 17-0 by the middle of the second quarter. They scored a touchdown just before halftime to make it 17-6 at the half (and those of us who keep track of such things were looking at each other saying, "hey, it's closer than it was in the semis". . .).
In the second half, the defense stiffened, and the offense started to find its rhythm. In the third quarter, we mounted a 96-yard drive to a touchdown, making the score 17-13. The defense stopped the opposing offense, and then the offense went back to work, starting again at our own 4-yard line. They marched up the field and scored the go-ahead touchdown, making the score 20-17 in our favor with just over 7 minutes left in the game (it turns out that that was the first time all year that our opponents had been behind after halftime).
But of course, our opponents didn't become the undefeated defending state champions by going away quietly when things get difficult. They began a slow, painstaking, 17-play drive, converting on fourth down three times, scoring the winning touchdown with a minute left in the game. Hats off to them.
I'm sure that both teams tested each other as severely as either of them had been tested all season. (Cliche alert!) It's just a shame that one of them had to lose (and all the moreso that the loser had to be us). Honestly (Cliche alert, redux) it was a great game, if you didn't care who won (but alas, I did. . .)
7M played a good game. He made a couple tackles (and got his name called over the PA at Ford Field!), and generally contributed to the success of our defense. And he was inconsolable at the final result (as were his teammates and coaches). I'm sure, at some point, they'll all gain some perspective on the privilege they had of just playing in such a game, and taking the champions to the limit of their ability, but for now, getting so close and coming up empty feels maddeningly cruel.
7M is a junior, as are the majority of the starters on the team, so they'll have another opportunity next year. I told 7M after the game that, starting now, he's one of the senior leaders on next year's team, and if they want to go back again and win, it will take even more hard work than what they put in to get so close this year. Nothing whatsoever is guaranteed them; they'll have to earn their spot all over again, and it'll be no easier next year. But they're in a position, having been there once, to understand what it takes. We will see what we will see. . .
But it has been a heck of a ride this time through. I'd love to do it again. . .
I was given a gratuitous gift of temperatures in the 50s this afternoon, so I went out on my bike for 21 miles. Combined with the 13 I did on Thanksgiving morning (which was cold, but clear and dry), I'm at 1036 for the year (and 160 for the month of November). Of course, any December miles are a gift, but as the eminently quotable Yogi Berra once said, it ain't over until it's over. . .