Just seconds after the clock hit zero, Havelock High running back Derrell Scott dropped to one knee. He covered his face with his hands. Tears flowed.
Teammate Matthew Boykin played the role of Jim Valvano. He was looking for somebody, anybody, to hug as tears rolled down his cheeks.
About 25 yards down the field stood Concord’s Keenan Black, his head lowered. No words could ease his obvious pain.
When the winners and losers are both in tears after the game, it must have been a great one.
Indeed, Havelock’s 21-13 victory over the Spiders in Saturday’s state 3A championship game in Raleigh had all the drama and excitement that the Rams’ previous 15 games lacked.
After all, Havelock had run through its previous opponents with ease, sometimes barely working up a sweat. But Concord would be different.
The Spiders had revenge on their minds. After all, they lost last season’s state title game to the Rams and didn’t want to lose again. They also had a much better team than the previous year, coming into the title tilt with an unblemished 15-0 record.
As the game unfolded on a soggy Carter-Finley field, it became quickly apparent that the outcome would rest on the last play of the game. And on that play, with Concord down 21-13 and desperately trying to solve Havelock’s stout defense for a touchdown and the chance to tie the game on a two-point conversion, Black came precious feet short of the end zone.
Just like that, it was over.
As Havelock celebrated its third consecutive state championship, my thoughts turned to Concord’s players. I could not imagine having played all season long, working as hard as football players do, only to come just feet short of potentially reaching the ultimate goal of winning a state championship. The Spiders pushed the Rams to the brink and deserve credit. I hope they’re remembered for the great season that they had, not the one loss they suffered in their final game.
Because Concord proved such a worthy adversary, victory tasted that much sweeter for the Ram coaches and players.
“With the game coming down to the final play of the game the way it did, I think it makes winning a state championship and winning a third one in a row that much more special,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant told me.
Special is a good way to describe it. Special is 16-0. Special is three consecutive state championships. Special is the bond that the players share. Special is Scott, and Boykin, and Taylor Woods, and Andrew Ramirez, and, Maurice Harris, and the rest of the Havelock Rams.
What a game, and what a team.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.