Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Geraldine, Montana: a football Elysium

Geraldine Setting by mdt1960
Geraldine Setting, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
In the muted light of the Geraldine High School gymnasium, Rivals coaches Rod Tweet and Brandon Gondeiro sat quietly in the bleachers before their Montana Class C Six-Man semi-final game with Savage. It felt like the calm before the storm. Players of the undefeated and number-one ranked Geraldine-Highwood Rivals were casually throwing footballs back and forth to stay loose—dressed in their t-shirts and football pants, sans shoulder pads and helmets.

“They match up with us pretty evenly,” came the subdued response from Tweet when I asked him about undefeated Savage. Their was no over-the-top optimism or impending doom in his voice. Tweet’s comment came across simply as matter-of-fact.

It’s always exciting when two highly touted teams from two different conferences battle in the playoffs, but such meetings don’t always result in an exciting game—as in the Class C Eight-Man quarterfinal game I attended the week earlier between Ennis and Simms.

A couple of hours after that brief visit in the gym, when Savage roared back from a 22-8 halftime deficit to tie the the game at thirty and send the game into overtime, perhaps the least surprised person attending the game was Rod Tweet.

The Savage rally transported me back to 2003 when Geraldine (before their co-op with Highwood) and Custer-Melstone met on the same field for the six-man final. Instead it was the Tigers of Geraldine who ended up rallying from a significant halftime deficit, and winning the title with a final score of 80-78. Coincidentally, in both games the team that was wearing orange and black was the team that overcame their slow, first-half beginnings. However in this semi-final game with Savage, Geraldine-Highwood would survive the rally and answer it with their own rally in the two overtime periods.

It’s always somewhat bittersweet when two football programs of such high caliber play each other in such a fierce and closely battled contest. As a relatively neutral spectator (but fan of the game), I hate to see anyone lose in such conditions.

In those last moments of overtime, after the Rivals secured their second touchdown and PAT, and Savage’s quarterback Paxton Miller was forced out of bounds ending the game, the snow came on cue, like a curtain signaling the end of a theatrical play. As the mayhem of the game’s final seconds was replaced by a post-game hush, both teams circled in the middle of the field and offered up their thanks with the snow coming harder and faster.

I know not every game played on the Geraldine field is an exciting or magical one, but in my little universe I have to wonder if there’s something exceptional about that gridiron ...out there on those high wheat fields of Montana with its dramatic skies and crisp air.

Recently I read a story about the best high school football towns in America. For the most part, they were places I would expect given my slight obsession on this topic. Ranging from Ohio to Texas to the South, the top ten football programs were listed by rank. Yet, after reading the article, I couldn’t help but say to myself, “But they’ve never seen a game in Geraldine.”

…or Savage.

…or Centerville.

…or Denton.

…or Wibaux.

…or Alberton.

…or Drummond, etc.

Postscript: A special thanks goes out to Ty from Savage… you know who you are. He let me borrow a pair of gloves for the game when I realized I was without mine prior to the start of the game.


Damon Juedeman said...

I spent some of the best times of my life on that field, with boys who were my brothers while in the orange-and-black. Tweet was the man then (1993), and he's still the man now. Twenty years gone by, and still I miss it.

live football scores said...

You and your opponent have the same conference record will receive one share of the conference during the season, then lost ... if you get second place.

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