Four weeks of high school football in the books here in Indiana. My last two weeks have been very interesting, for very different reasons. I shall share.
A week ago, I had the one Catholic school we cover, RHS, which was ranked #5 in 4A, against one of their two biggest rivals, BCHS, which was ranked #1 in 3A. Despite the class difference, BCHS has dominated the series in the last decade, as they’ve dominated pretty much everyone over that span. With the exception of the elite in class 5A, BCHS is about as good as any school in the state.
Anyway, big matchup, especially with the buzz that RHS was beginning to rebuild after about five years of sub-par performance. It was a tight contest, although BCHS seemed to be the better team all night. With just over 2:00 to play in the game, RHS hit on a 31-yard TD pass to take a three-point lead. The place was going nuts. No worries for BCHS. They took the kick off back to the 49, then rather quickly moved inside the ten. They settled for a tying field goal with 54 seconds to play. Might this be my first ever overtime in football?
Indeed it was. Which posed a problem. Our normal deadline is 10:45. This year, because of a new editing system, my editor has informally moved the deadline up 15 minutes, with a strong preference for having your boxscore and story submitted no later than 10:20. This game was on local TV, so it started at 7:30 instead of the traditional 7. There were longer breaks during dead balls for commercials, which was truly dumb as the game was being showed on tape delay at 11, not live. So it was already getting late. And now we were playing even later. I shot my editor text updates and he was praying for a quick resolution.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first OT. In the second, RHS had to settle for a field goal. BCHS had fourth down at the 2, and chose to go for it. One way or another, the game was ending. It was 10:20. BCHS banged the ball in and I raced to my car to start writing. On the way, I asked my editor how long of a story he needed. “Whatever you can give me in 10 minutes.” Great, I have to sum up a great game insanely quickly without any quotes from coaches or players.
Fortunately, I had already banged out a couple paragraphs highlighting some of the big plays of regulation. I cleaned those up, summarized the overtime, put a snappy lede on it, and fired it off. I got my stats in ten minutes later and was done for the night, feeling pretty good about myself.
The next morning I read my story and realized I left out one huge component: I failed to mention that BCHS scored the winner on fourth down. That’s a nice little element of drama, not to mention a fundamental fact, that should have been included. Oh well. I think people got the gist.
Last Friday I was scheduled, for the first time ever, to cover our biggest school, CGHS. The catch was I had to drive two hours to Terre Haute to see them, probably the reason our staff writer, who normally covers them, didn’t take the game. CGHS is really good this year, so I was excited to see them. Until I saw the forecast. It looked like I was going to get wet, or rather the players would. And a wet field and ball means lots of dropped passes, lots of changes of possession, and another long, slow game pushing me up against deadline.
Mother Nature took care of that, though. When I arrived in Terre Haute, about 45 mnutes before kickoff, the skies were dark and ominous and the radar showed a long stretch of red across Illinois. The teams warmed up, lined up for the national anthem, and as soon as the band finished, a call came through the press box, “Lightning spotted. Evacuate the field and bleachers.” In Indiana there is an automatic 30 minute delay any time lightning is spotted. Everyone in the press box stared at their smartphone screens, studying the radar and calculating just how long we might have to sit and wait. The athletic directors, and again Mother Nature, made a quick decision. With tornado warnings just across the state line, the game was officially postponed at 7:20. I raced out to my car to begin the drive back to Indy, hoping I could out-run the storms.
I kept it pegged on 80, flying by several state policemen who were sitting on the sides of the road watching the clouds rather than traffic, and eyeing the lightning show in my rearview mirror. Just as I hit the I-465 loop near the airport, I drove into a different severe thunderstorm. Fortunately this one just had heavy winds and torrential rains; no tornadoes or hail. So I crawled along 465 at about 30 MPH for 45 minutes, barely able to see the road in front of me, and listened to the radio as game-after-game across central Indiana was delayed and then postponed. In the end about half the games in the state scheduled for Friday night were played or completed on Saturday.
I didn’t get to head back to Terre Haute on Saturday, though. We had soccer that morning. CGHS survived a sloppy field and won 17-15. That could have been fun to write about. Oh well.
So it’s been a pretty exciting couple of weeks. For some strange reason I have a feeling I’ll get my boys at ECHS this week, as they try to win their third game of the season.