Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Victory at Greybull... finally

Greybull Halftime Talk
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
September 2001

Last night I attended my first high school football game in nearly two years. There were few things I missed during my year outside of the country, but high school football was definitely lumped into that minority.

I travelled to Greybull—about a 45 minute drive across the high desert of the Big Horn Basin—to watch the Buffalos take on the Rams of Dubois.

In considering all the games that were available that night, travelling to Greybull wasn’t exactly whimsical on my part. I’d been tipped off last month that Greybull was still winless after four seasons of play. Thirty-nine games and not one victory. An entire generation of football players (from freshman to seniors) had passed through the corridors and football field at Greybull and none of them had experienced a win. There were rumors floating around Greybull that the sophomore class had plenty of talent and even in varsity play (usually dominated by juniors and seniors), they might be able to carry the team to their first victory this year. I was hooked.

Two years ago, I had attended a friday afternoon game between Greybull and Burlington hosted by the Huskies of Burlington. It had been a tight game—tied up to the last minute. Greybull was marching down the field and looked unstoppable. From the Husky five-yard line with less than one minute to play, the quarterback rolled out of the pocket and attempted a pass to his receiver in the end zone. However, the ball was intercepted by one of the Husky defensive backs and he returned the ball over 100 yards for the winning touchdown. It was a true heartbreaker for the Buffalos.

Last night’s game was every bit as exciting. Dubois came out in the first quarter with the game’s first two touchdowns and surely the fans of Greybull were getting a refresher course in what to expect at a Greybull High School football game. But, before the half had ended, Greybull assembled a drive that resulted in their first touchdown. One could sense the rise of hope and confidence in the Greybull team just like the fireworks that shot up from the south end zone following the touchdown.

During half-time, one of the Dubois coaches was easily heard through the cinder-blocked locker room walls. They were not pleased with their six point advantage. In contrast, the Greybull camp seemed civil. I even considered it was too civil and possibly lacking of a “killer instinct” that was needed to win any game. I was wrong.

In the third quarter, Dubois produced their third touchdown making the game 18-6 in their favor. The Rams seemed for the most part unstoppable and on defense, they had been shutting down the Buffalos bland offense. Yet, like a desert mirage—lost in an undetermined span of time during the second half and out of nowhere—Greybull moved down the field and stuck the ball in the end zone. Their methodical offense chipped away at the Ram’s defense ever so subtle as if not to wake the sleeping giant and thus Dubois watched their two-touchdown lead fade like a dream.

On the ensuing kickoff, the ball carrier for Dubois fumbled the ball in open field—no one had even touched him—and Greybull recovered the ball. Suddenly Dubois was awake but they were no longer the giant. On the next play, Greybull demonstrated the textbook example of killer instinct and great coaching. A razzle-dazzle misdirection play led to a down-field pass and a wide open receiver. And just like that, the game was tied up. Dubois was in shock and never recovered.

The Ram’s offensive steam engine sputtered and stalled out on their next possession—turning the ball over to an energized Greybull team. The Buffs picked up where they left off in their last offensive stand as they marched down the field like an infantry of soldiers. There was nothing elegant in their advance—just basic, beginning-of-the-year football.

During those closing minutes, as Greybull approached the Dubois goal line, I was reminded of that game in Burlington two years ago. How many heartbreaks could this team take? But on this Friday night, it wasn’t to be. Greybull finished the drive with a touchdown and held off a last gasp effort from Dubois in the closing seconds of the game.

Driving out of town into the darkness of the Big Horn Basin with my root beer freeze from the Greybull A&W drive-in, I thought to myself, “Wow, tonight Greybull is going to be jumping—even the summer rodeos won’t surpass the excitement of this night.”

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