A Game to Remember
When a school that didn't have a varsity team a year ago visits a school whose team has a long history of success, storylines can seem obvious. As I commented to a fellow spectator during the second half, that's why the games are played.
Well before that though, the Falcons gave us a glimpse of how the night would go for both teams. The first possession of the game featured the first of many momentum swinging plays. Park Christian started on offense and managed a couple positive plays before, John Vall made the first impact play of the game for the Comets with a forced fumble that he also managed to recover.
Now with the ball, a short field and the home crowd, Hillcrest got themselves into the hot red zone. Stymied on the first three plays within the 10, the Comets had sliver of a first down area between the one and the end zone line but only one play to convert. That was all that quarterback Thomas Zwiers needed put points on the board.
Minutes later PCS got the ball back and had to deal with another deficit in their season. Their response was eerily similar to their first chance to erase the zero - a fumble, recovered by Hillcrest. To their credit, the Falcon defense managed get the ball back in short order, the second a series of four possessions where the defense was able to play ahead of the offense. The final of the four ended with an interception by Isaac Janssen.
Now with a short field of their own, Park decided to play it safe with handoffs. First went to Ethan Jorgensen on consecutive runs then Ian Ziebarth finished it off from a few yards out. Bouyed by their first score of the night, the Falcons defense again stood tall again and forced a punt, with the aid of an infraction by the home team on third down.
Jonah Williams took the punt near midfield and showed the next recurring theme for the evening - coverage issues. After his 40 yard return, Jorgensen got the call to put in the next touchdown and he delivered with little trouble.
Not to be outdone on his own field, Logan Disabella took the first hand and made his own entry into the track meet with an 81 yard td run. No sooner had that momentum swing happened then did the Falcons make their own push, as in the push by the defense to block the ensuing extra point attempt. That left the score 14-13 after the two touchdowns within the first 84 seconds of the second quarter.
Clinging to the one point lead and with 80 yards of greenish grass in front of them, the visitors took a slower approach to their next possession. Williams made a couple nice catches to keep the offense moving but as the approached the red zone, their inexperience reared it's head. A pair of penalties not only gave them long down and distances but wiped out a touchdown before the Comet defense forced a turnover on downs.
Hillcrest struggled with their next chance and before much time had ticked off the clock were once again punting the ball away. Park in turn only had the ball for four plays but took much more advantage of those four plays, capping them off with another long score, the second of Jorgensen's evening.
With less than three minutes remaining in the half, Hillcrest had dual goals of using all the time up and adding to their total. They succeeded at one of the two but I'm thinking that if given the choice, to a man they would have taken the one that they didn't manage to accomplish. Down to 1.8 seconds, the Comets tried a 41 yard field goal but it fell well short of the pipes. So they didn't get to Belichick their friendly rivals but they did get to start the second 24 minutes of play with the ball.
The Comets didn't waste any time showing that the breather did them some good and that they were hungry to get their first win of the season. Zwiers took the next step towards that goal with a touchdown run out of the gates. They followed that up with a two point conversion to knot the contest at 21.
As it happened in the second quarter, so again in the third for the Falcons in their opening possession of the half. Jorgensen took the handoff most of the way and Ziebarth finished it off with the kind of response that any coach would hope for. Issues took center stage once again though as their point after was no good. As if that wasn't enough, the trouble compounded on itself from there. After forcing a Hillcrest punt Jonah Williams went deep to receive but as the ball sailed through the air it kept right on going through his hands and to the ground. No sooner had it hit the dirt then a Comet had fallen on it to retain possession.
After a pass interference on third down put the ball nearly touching the line to gain Disabella finished the fortuitous possession with six. After a blocked point after, the difference was once again zero.
The Falcons must be as disgusted with ties as I am because in no time at all they were once again celebrating points. Jorgensen got it started with a beauty of a return to the 31. A couple of plays later it was touchdown time again. After another PAT that wasn't, the difference sat at two field goals.
33 - 27 doesn't imply a lot of defensive success but another set of possessions did go the way of the defense's. First with a punt by Hillcrest after a TFL then via a pair of turnovers on down. That's how the clock ran to the fourth. The first possession of the final quarter broke the streak though. Yet another theme reared it's head again when Jorgensen took the handoff and sprinted to the end. Tack on two more points and Park had the advantage 41 - 27 but that's where it all got exciting, as if it hadn't been already.
On their next chance, Hillcrest managed to hit a big pass play to Trevor Antuna and he took it to the 20. Two runs by Disabella later and the Comets score was six points higher plus a successful extra point. The home teams momentum grew from there as they got another fumble after a near touchdown run by Jorgensen. They weren't able to capitalize on the latest extra possession but the defense came back strong to keep their window open.
Aided by a face mask penalty, the Comets were powered to a single point deficit by their Zwiers on another keeper. After initially lining up to kick for the tie, the coaches reconsidered and went for the win. The Falcons held them off which again left them clinging to a one point lead.
Hillcrest's only option was to try an onside kick, without which the game would be over. So the team's lined up for the inevitable short & angular kick from the foot of Nick Foss. The senior lined up, took his steps and the ball took to the air. After a bounce and a collective holding of breathe by all in attendance the officials made the signal - Hillcrest ball!
With time ticking away Zweirs again hit Antuna for a clutch catch to get to the lip of the red zone. But once again, errors came into play. A questionable spike to stop the clock, then a sack and finally a field goal attempt that never had a chance all came together for a lackluster end to a game that was anything but over the duration. Nevertheless, it is a game that players for both teams will remember for years to come!
It wasn't how I expected it to go but then something I did expect came to pass. The teams showed the presence of a kinship that extends far beyond the 50 miles between them or the competition on the field. It wasn't the most evident example I've seen between these schools' teams but it was there nonetheless and is something that I hope doesn't change!
Player of the Game
Photo of the Game
Not the best picture from the game but the most emblematic of what happened during those 48 minutes!
For the full gallery from the game, click the image!