Giving Thanks: The Last Football game

 

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, TVDM major and Montclair State Baseball player, Ryan Long, explores thanks and gratefulness through a personal sports moment.

Picture: Washington Twp vs Millville 2011 semifinal playoff game via/dailyjournal

Heading to Millville High School on a late Friday night in November 2011, I rode in the back of the bus surprisingly loose for a semifinal playoff game. Coming off a comeback victory over Williamstown in the previous round, our team was confident we could pull off another upset and play for the state championship. “Til I Collapse” by Eminem blared out of my Beats headphones as I got off the second teamer’s bus, hoping to finally make an impact in a playoff game.

Before the game started, I hoped to get some action in the first half and make an impact the whole game. I was a junior backup quarterback and running back. Our offense looked stagnant. We dropped passes, got sacked and Millville’s defense flustered us in the first half. Before the couple thousand fans settled into their spot along the bleachers or fence, we were losing 21-0. The halftime score was 28-7, and I found my brother. We walked into the locker room for halftime still waiting for my first action in the game.

The home fans yelled out, “You guys suck,” and “You might as well go home the game’s over.” My brother and I actually laughed in agreement with the fans because we thought we had no chance at a comeback. The coaches made some adjustments and to my surprise, our offensive coordinator came up to me and told me I was going in the second half. That gave me some more incentive for the second half but I also said to my brother with a smirk, “Now they’re going to use me?”

I stretched and got ready for my first drive in the second half but still didn’t have full faith in the comeback, until our first defensive stop. We held their high powered offense to a turnover on fourth down and my stomach dropped a bit as I entered the game. My first play was a quarterback run to the right, where I gained five yards as my hamstrings loosened up from the sideline duty. I eventually lead my team to the goal line, where the starting quarterback had to steal the thunder and get the touchdown, but it didn’t matter. I was finally helping my team towards a win.

The game went back and forth until the score was 42-35 with 1:30 remaining. Somehow we recovered the onside kick and had some time left to tie the game. Our starting quarterback scrambled up the middle and cramped up in his right calf. I immediately grabbed a football and warmed up, getting ready to tie the game. It eventually got to 30 seconds remaining and we had fourth and goal on their 5 yard line. I remember the play call 92 X pyramid. I tried to remember the reads because it was a play we rarely called. I took one last look around the stadium hearing the Millville fans screaming on the top of their lungs as I waited for the snap. I rolled out to my left and saw my running back wide open in the end zone as I lofted the ball into his arms for a touchdown. I ripped off my chinstraps and stared down the Millville crowd as we capped off one of the greatest comebacks in school history.

With all the momentum we decided to go for two, the moment I was waiting for. I could win the game as the backup quarterback and lead us to a state championship appearance. I looked for my brother in the back of the end zone, but the Millville defender jumped out of nowhere, intercepting the pass. I fell down on my back in disbelief, but held my head high after the game. We came up short, losing 42-41, but I had a sense of pride, after leading a comeback and hoping for more great memories on the football field.

I am thankful for this moment because it was the last meaningful football play I had in my career. My coaches left me out of the game plan in the last game of the year, and an eventual injury ended my senior year before it started. It’s disappointing I never felt like I reached my full potential in my football career, but my last memory will be talked about for years amongst my friends as it was possibly the greatest game in school history.


www.montclair.edu


Montclair State | New Jersey
11.23.2015

Ryan Long

Sophomore TVDM major with concentration in Sports Media/Journalism. Also a member of the Montlclair State baseball team.