Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday Night Lights

When Pleasant Grove High School opened in the fall of 2005, son #1 was a freshman, part of the first class that would attend the school for all four years. As with most high schools, Pleasant Grove opened with just two classes, which meant that their sports programs were strictly of the startup variety - undermanned.

In the school's third year of existence, the Eagles football team came out of nowhere to finish 9-1 in the regular season, and win a playoff game. Son #1 was a member of the marching band and mom was in the band booster club, so I'd attend some of the home games, but wasn't really into it that much. But with each game, you could see the attendance increase, and you could see the building of a community culture supporting the team.

Last fall, the Eagles proved that the previous year hadn't been a fluke. They finished the season 8-2, but really caught fire in the second half of the season, and rode a wave of momentum all the way into the section championship game - which they lost to perennial powerhouse St. Mary's of Stockton. By that time, I was a convert.

This season, the culture behind the team is in full bloom, and son #2 and I have been there at every home game (and one away game). Last night was probably the most exciting game we've seen yet, matching the 6-2 Eagles against the 7-1 Folsom Bulldogs. It looked like we might be in for a long night when Folsom scored on their second play from scrimmage, but the Eagles bounced right back with a TD of their own. Unfortunately, what would become the storyline of the night was foretold when a bad snap led to a missed extra point.

PG took a 12-7 lead into halftime, but what we didn't know was that quarterback Taylor Congdon had been injured late in the first half, and would be unable to return. Without Congdon's passing prowess in the Eagles' arsenal, Folsom was able to key on the run, denying PG again and again. But a combination of scrappy defense and Folsom turnovers kept them in the game, and midway through the 4th quarter, the score remained 12-7.

And that's when all hell broke loose. You could see that the defense was gassed, and Folsom was finally able to take the lead with about 5 minutes to play. In an odd decision, they went for two (sure, it would have given them a 3-point lead, but how often do you see field goals kicked in high school games?), and when they failed, the score was 13-12. I thought that was it, and when the Eagles faced 4th-and-5 at midfield at the 2:30 mark, that seemed to be it. The Folsom fans were all on their feet, and they were loud.

And then, a miracle - a screen pass which came within inches of hitting the ground, caught on a shoestring by Kenny Taylor, who rumbled all the way to the end zone. Bedlam on our side, and after a two-point conversion, a 20-13 lead. But now the defense was really gassed, and Folsom's offense is really good, and before you knew it, the score was tied at 20 and we were heading into overtime. I have to admit that I didn't know how high school games dealt with their ties - each team gets the ball at the 10-yard line, and has four plays to score (or not). Folsom had the ball first and scored their TD, and then on a great Wildcat play, Jalen Saunders scored for the Eagles.

And then, in what might just be the worst way to lose a game, we missed the extra point. Game over. Which is really a shame, because the Eagles' kicker is awesome - he routinely sends his kickoffs into the end zone, and I don't think he'd missed one all season. But something about that bad snap seemed to mess with his head, and...well, I hope he doesn't dwell on it.

That leaves PG in an "Iron Triangle" situation with their closest rivals, Folsom and Monterey Trail (Monterey Trail beat Folsom, PG beat Monterey Trail, Folsom beat PG). With one league game left to play, I think PG can still make the playoffs, but what was obvious last night is that their offense isn't the same without Congdon. If he can't return, that could be it.

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