SYRACUSE – The atmosphere in the Carrier Dome couldn’t be matched Friday.
Deafening noise, a wild football game. Countless fans cheering madly after making a 200-plus mile commute to Syracuse to root for their team. That team being the Our Lady of Lourdes High School football team, which was aiming to become only the second team in Dutchess County to ever win a New York State football championship.
Some of those who attended the Class A state title game had to make sacrifices. Like James Maher, a graduate of the Lourdes class of 2013 currently attending the University of Maryland. He spent part of his Thanksgiving break in Syracuse to witness his alma mater attempt high school football history.
“It was like a long drive, but it was totally worth it,” Maher said. “This is something we always dreamed of and it’s really good for Lourdes.”
Maher and I have a lot in common. Not just because we were both at the game. Not just because we are both graduates of Lourdes. But because we both were making a sacrifice to be there.
In a delicious twist of irony, my 10-year Lourdes reunion fell on Friday, which just so happened to be one of the most important days in the school’s history — at least in terms of sports. The reunion took place at Poughkeepsie’s Mill House Brewing Company, which is right next to the Poughkeepsie Journal Building. I only imagined the atmosphere there, and what it must have been like in comparison to the Carrier Dome.
A stark contrast, probably.
The game against Section 6’s South Park got underway a little after 3 p.m. The Warriors and Sparks took everyone in the Carrier Dome on a stupendous journey — a heavyweight fight that made Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed (OK, maybe a little more fittingly, Adonis Creed vs. Ricky Conlan) look like kid stuff.
South Park led by as many as 17 points, but every time it appeared as if it was the beginning of the end for Lourdes, it wasn’t. Each time the Sparks gained the upper hand, the Warriors fought back.
Every time South Park scored, Lourdes quarterback Dean Rotger was there to plunge through a throng of bodies for another Warriors touchdown to finish a drive. In each instance after a speed burst for a score from Tyree Brown, the Sparks’ quarterback, Warriors wide receiver Luke Timm was there to make a spectacular catch. On most occasions, Timm had to battle more than one defender to make the completion.
In live-tweeting some running color commentary, the online response was tremendous. Seemingly the whole community followed along on Twitter, with the hashtag #OLLStates.
Ultimately it wasn’t the Warriors who emerged victorious — they lost 49-46 — but as the players walked off the field when the clock read all zeros, visibly upset, the horde of supporters who had flocked to Syracuse from Poughkeepsie stood in applause.
Family. Friends. Students. Even fellow alumni cheered on the Warriors.
And as good as the reunion may have been back home, it probably didn’t match the aura in the Carrier Dome. The feel of a community coming together for a big sporting event.
Worth the sacrifice? Absolutely.
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports