Every now and then a high school sporting event comes around and captivates even the most seasoned of sports reporters.
Last year’s WIAA Division 5 state quarterfinal matchup pitting an up-and-coming Amherst program against perennial state powerhouse Stratford falls into that category for yours truly.
Since it would be cruel to give the ending away right from the start, how about we touch on some of the story lines that moved the game to the top of this reporter’s list of prep football games for the ages.
It would have been a fascinating plot in the regular season. Throw in the magnified importance of the playoffs, and the circumstances couldn’t have been more captivating.
There was the possibility of a storybook ending.
Legendary Stratford coach Cal Tackes had already announced he would be retiring at the end of the season. The players wanted nothing more than to send him off into the sunset with a seventh state championship.
Instead, the game turned out to be a suspense thriller with an unpredictable ending.
Not many games have been so enthralling and emotionally draining as what took place on Nov. 3, 2012 at Amherst High School.
There was never a dull moment as the action kept you entranced throughout.
The hitting was intense. The cracking of shoulder pads and helmets crashing together like a pair of rams butting heads could be heard all the way back to Stratford.
This one was not for the weak of heart.
Both teams refused to concede anything. An inch of turf was tough to come by let alone a first down.
The crazy emotional swings the players and coaches experienced seemingly took place from play to play.
In the closing minutes of a 14-14 game, the Tigers reached into their bag of tricks for a halfback option pass that left them in the red zone, and ready to celebrate a berth in the state semifinals.
Instead, Amherst’s Caleb Glennon turned the tide in a blink of an eye, intercepting a pass and setting the stage for one of the wildest finishes this reporter has had the pleasure of witnessing.
Two plays and 35 yards later, Ryan Makuski was hauling in a game-winning touchdown pass from Chris Zblewski with 12.2 second left in the fourth quarter.
Suddenly, the Tigers season was over. Meanwhile, Amherst would continue to make school history by winning the program’s first state title.
The knock drown, drag out battle kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
We’ll have a chance to check out Amherst and Stratford version 2 tonight, and we can only hope this sequel can live up to last year’s instant classic.
Rarely does that happen. See Rocky II for one of dozens of examples.
The script for the rematch has yet to be written.
Time to grab a bag of popcorn, along with a pen and note pad, and enjoy the show.
By the time 9:30 rolls around tonight, we’ll know if the sequel lived up to the original.
All we can do is hope that turns out to be the case.