By Del Duduit
Last week was the opening round of the high school playoff football season in Ohio, and already memories were made that will last a lifetime.
There is nothing more rewarding for a player, coach, or parent than to watch their son or daughter make a big play when it counts the most.
When the game is on the line.
When they come through in the clutch.
No one plans for that instant. It’s the result of years of practice and preparation.
It’s something they will never forget. It’s something they will talk about for years to come, or they will wear out the replay button on their laptop or phone reliving the moment. And they should.
The stories will live on at Christmas gatherings or at class reunions.
There is a thrill, mixed in with some pride, that comes with making that play that is unique.
I have pictures on my walls at home of when my oldest son hit a game-winning shot in basketball. The moment he released the ball is captured forever on film and is framed for me to gaze at when I stroll through the room. It’s special because I know what happened three seconds later.
There is also a photo of my youngest son being picked up by his teammates after knocking in the game-winning run against a rival high school baseball team. The look of joy and surprise on the faces is priceless. The picture told the story of triumph.
There is just something special about those moments. I guess it’s because it doesn’t happen all the time. Or maybe it’s because the player involved demonstrated strength and rose to the occasion under pressure.
I was fortunate enough to have experienced a couple of fantastic moments when I played, and then got to witness my sons coming through in the clutch too.
I wish every player could experience that feeling.
Zane Gilley has had that feeling.
The 5-9 junior from Northwest picked off the fourth-down pass, his second of the night, at the five-yard line from Portsmouth quarterback Drew Roe and galloped 56 yards with 1: 35 to play in the game to seal Northwest’ s 21-20 win over the Trojans in the first round of the Division V Region 19 high school playoffs on Saturday at Roy Rogers Field.
“We knew they were going to throw it deep,” Gilley said. “(Roe) threw it up there and my eyes got really big because I saw it coming my way. I jumped up and grabbed it by the goal line. Man, what a great feeling.”
His interception secured the first-ever playoff win in Mohawk history.
And his teammate, Hunter Townsend got to experience that feeling the play before the interception.
Roe was leading the Trojans to a potential game-winning drive with time winding down in the fourth quarter.
PHS was in the red zone when Roe scrambled to his right on third down. Townsend, a 5-10 senior was on the prowl and closed in on the quarterback.
He made the big play and sacked Roe for a seven-yard loss at the Northwest 22 to force the fourth down.
“He was fast all night long,” Townsend said of Roe. “But he was scrambling, and I was chasing him, and the second he slowed down I knew I had him.”
Northwest Head Coach Bill Crabtree knew the magnitude of that play.
“That was a huge sack at the best time possible,” said Northwest Head Coach Bill Crabtree. “That put Townsend on top of the world.”
What a feeling.
After PHS was flagged for two penalties, it was Gilley’s time to shine.
Everyone on the team contributed to the win. But those two plays, the sack followed by the interception, will live in the memories of Gilley, Townsend, Crabtree and those close to them forever.
No one, or no circumstance can ever take those memories away.
We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4: 19 KJV)
If you can ever remember one thing in life -- it's the God loves you. And don't ever forget that or let anyone tell you anything different. It's yours. Keep it close.
What a feeling.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.