On Friday nights The Herald can be a crazy place. With 20-plus games that we’re either covering or tasked with getting boxscores and write-ups on in under an hour, it can be a wild free-for-all to get the newspaper out on time (our deadline is 11:35 p.m.)
One of the problems with that is that if we don’t cover a certain game it can fall through the cracks and get lost to boxscore purgatory — in other words the boxscore does a pretty poor job of showing how amazing a game truly was on any given night.
Well that happened on this past Friday night. We didn’t staff the Stanwood-Mount Vernon game and it was a beauty. Ironically I listened to the game on the radio throughout the night (I was trading between it and the Archbishop Murphy webcast from San Diego and the Oak Harbor-Arlington game. Like I said: crazy.). So ostensibly I listened to the game, but in reality I was switching back and forth and truly missed the essence of the game.
Sure I heard the fans going crazy. I also heard the announced say, when Mount Vernon got the ball back with the lead with a little over a minute to play, that the game was over. I also heard the plays. But I didn’t understand it. Wednesday I paid a visit to Stanwood and learned just how crazy it was.
Here’s what happened (some of the facts may be off on this because I got it second hand nearly a week after it occurred):
• Ahead 22-21 with little more than 40 seconds to play, Mount Vernon needed to just kneel on the ball and run the clock out. Stanwood coach Doug Trainor was praying that the Bulldogs would run the ball and they did. Stanwood stripped the ball and pounced on it. “I was telling them stand the ballcarrier up and strip it, but I didn’t think they would actually run it,” said Trainor. Chad Larson stripped the ball and jumped on it.
• Stanwood got the ball just shy of its own 40-yard-line with close to 40 ticks left. After a few incompletions, Stanwood called the play “Good Stuff” — that’s not the name of the play but the Spartans players refused to give me the real name — in which a slot receiver catches the ball in the flat, laterals it off to a cutting receiver underneath. That receiver then becomes a glorified scrambling option quarterback with a pitch man to his left. The problem: The usual outside receiver who becomes the option QB, Jake Campbell, was hurt. So in stepped TE Brian O’Donnell. “I runned that play one time in practice,” said O’Donnell.
• Tyler Givens caught the initial ball and he lateraled it to O’Donnell, who caught it and streaked down the left side of the field. Stanwood running back Kyle Strachan was the option to his right and O’Donnell pitched it to him when he saw the cornerback come up. Strachan streaked down the sideline and got knocked out-of-bounds good enough for the first down.
• After getting called for intentional grounding they ran a hook-and-ladder play. Trevor Shaw caught the initial ball and lateraled to a streaking Givens, who got a first down and got out-of-bounds near the 20-yard-line with under 10 seconds left.
• Stanwood took a shot in the end zone and then the coaches called for kicker Collins Cameron, who I do remember was talked down as not an experienced kicker by the announcers earlier in the game. Facing a 37-yard-field goal on natural grass, Cameron strode to the 30-yard-line and set up. “I tried not to think about it,” Cameron said. “Just keep it in the back of my mind. Just relax. Coach Trainor took me aside and said ‘Nobody thinks you can do it, so just go out there and do it.’ You just got to relax.”
• The snap wasn’t the best — “There was so much pressure,” said snapper Josh Scott. “I just grabbed it and was like ‘Let’s get this over with.’ I was so scared” — but holder Strachan corralled it — “It was a mini-freak out,” Strachan admitted — put the laces toward the uprights and Cameron swung his foot through. “It felt good,” Campbell said. “It felt like it came off the foot right.” The ball sailed through the uprights and there was pandemonium. “There was like three seconds left so they had to herd everybody off the field,” said Kyle O’Donnell. Trainor said it would have been good from 55.
• Stanwood squibbed the kick off and tackled the Mount Vernon player to end the game, give the Spartans a 24-22 win and help Stanwood improve to 2-0 on the young season.
It’s the kind of game every sportswriter dreams of being a part of. I wasn’t there in person, but I feel like I was, so thanks to the Stanwood players and coach Trainor for reliving the night and telling me their stories.