JR Tucker 24, Mills Godwin 20: The Greatest Game Ever Played
I had never been to one of my high school’s away games, and I decided to go to this one because Justin and Stephen both wanted to go. I looked in the paper that day, and it said this meeting was a toss-up. Tucker hadn’t beaten Godwin since 1992, even though they had always been huge rivals. I had attended the Tucker-Godwin game at Tucker the year before. My friends and I remember that as “the night Tucker scored;” the Tigers had started that season by being shut out in their first four games, and they finally scored a touchdown in that game, the fifth game of the season.
Justin didn’t know if he was going to be able to come after all, so I told Stephen that we would still go no matter what. He and I were just about to leave at 7:00, when Justin called. He said he needed a ride and that he was going to the game; I was thrilled. Justin came to my house, and we were off. It was weird not going to Tucker for this game; every game I had ever been to was played at Tucker. We were driving to Godwin when a song came on the radio. Justin said “Oh I love this song, Dan, can I turn it up?” I said “Yeah, absolutely.” It was “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi, a classic.
The sky was already pretty dark; the days were getting shorter. We arrived at the stadium and went in. We saw a few friends and then went over to the Visitor’s side to hang out with the Tucker fans, and we all put on orange face paint before the game. Things started out bright for the Tigers, as they scored first. It was a touchdown, and the first time they had led by seven points in almost two years. Godwin responded with a touchdown, but missed the extra point: Tucker 7, Godwin 6. Tucker then scored a field goal for three points, making the score 10-6. Godwin scored another touchdown to make it 13-10 in favor of them. Just before halftime, Tucker scored a touchdown to take their first halftime lead in well over a year; they went into the locker room with a 17-13 lead, and were 24 minutes away from their first win in 18 tries. As Don McLean sang in “American Pie,” “the halftime air was sweet perfume.” The halftime show was long, partly because it was Godwin’s homecoming. I saw a few other Tucker fans on the Godwin side, and we started to imagine what would happen if Tucker actually did win tonight, how amazing it would be. Katie, who went to Godwin, told us that was not going to happen. The second half began, and it was trouble right from the start; the Eagles took the lead on a touchdown. It was so easy, just a simple pass to the end zone. The guy was wide open; where was the defense? If Tucker was going to lose this game, it was going to be because they beat themselves. The rest of the third quarter went scoreless for both teams. It was 20-17 in favor of Godwin, going into the fourth quarter; 12 minutes left to play. The first nine minutes of the fourth quarter weren’t exciting, just great defense by both teams. The Tigers had the ball with about five minutes left, and gave up the ball with just over three minutes to play, and we thought that was it; that Godwin would run out the clock, and the game would be history. But the Tigers would not give up; they stopped the Eagles on three straight downs, and Godwin punted. Tucker got the ball back with two minutes left to play. They drove down the field, and with about 30 seconds left, had the ball ten yards away from the end zone and down by three points, 20-17. It was second down. The ball was snapped, and the quarterback launched it for the end zone. It went way out of bounds; the receiver never had a chance. There were about 25 seconds left, and it was third down. It felt like midnight. By this time, Zach, Ethan, Stephen, Justin, and I were all standing by the fence, straight across from the end zone where this was taking place. The ball was snapped again, and the quarterback completed a pass to the receiver, who caught it inside the five-yard-line, then ran past the defender for the touchdown, and we all went absolutely nuts. I think I even missed Tucker kicking the extra point to make the score 24-20. The Tucker student section was going crazy, I suppose I had never heard, nor will ever again hear them that loud, and I was excited to be a part of it; I had just about lost my voice. But, there were still 20 seconds left to play. I thought, “If we stop them twice, the game is over.” The Tigers kicked it off, and the kick returner took off, to the 20, the 30, the 40, midfield; we were all screaming “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” He got to the 40, and was finally brought down by our kicker. The Tigers were now only ten short seconds away from victory. The Eagles lined up and snapped the ball. The quarterback got it to a receiver who gained 20 yards. Godwin quickly called time out with three seconds left to play. To all the people who were at the game, and especially the Tucker players and fans, these would be some of the longest three seconds that they could ever remember. We all knew that the Tigers were one play away from stunning the Eagles, and setting off a celebration that Tucker had never seen. At this point, Justin, Stephen, Zach, Ethan, and I were all up on the fence, ready to jump. I had the digital camera in hand, ready to record what would be a historic event. This was it: the next three seconds of the game would either end in ultimate heartbreak, or ultimate euphoria; there was no gray area. A tie was impossible; there is no way to score exactly four points on one play in a football game. We would win or lose, right here, on the next play. The Eagles lined up. They snapped the ball, and the quarterback lobbed it toward the end zone; a Tigers player jumped in front of it and intercepted it and fell to the ground with the ball, and Tucker had done it. They had stunned Godwin, and the losing streak was finally over. We watched the final play take place, and we jumped and ran, over the fence, onto the track, and to the center of the field; we stormed the field, Godwin’s field, on Godwin’s homecoming. We couldn’t have scripted a better ending to this game. Justin and I were the first two people out on the field, both of us screaming “YESSS!!!!!!!!,” as the rest of the Tucker fans followed. We all got into a big mosh pit on the field, where all the players were giving hugs and raising their helmets. It was unreal; we were all jumping up and down and everyone was going crazy. While I was on the field, I started to wonder if I was just dreaming, as if I would wake up and find out that Tucker actually lost by 40, or worse, that Godwin had actually completed the pass to the end zone and scored with no time left and won the game. But it was absolutely real. There we were, in the middle of Godwin’s field, celebrating in front of their stunned fans. My friends and I felt like we had just won the Super Bowl; it was an insane frenzy of epic pandemonium. No one wanted that night to end. Everyone was just so happy. What a sight it would have been, if someone was in an airplane, flying over and looking down at the fracas. Zach, Ethan, and I were even more proud because it was Tucker’s first win since our junior year. I saw Ashley, the football team’s manager, and I went up to her and gave her the biggest hug, and said, “We did it!” She was in tears; it had been an incredibly emotional night. Tucker had ended a losing streak that everyone thought would go on forever. Out of the last 20 games Tucker had played, including this one, they had two wins. Yet, this win was arguably the greatest and most prominent win in their 46-year history. Better yet, they snapped a 15-game losing streak against Godwin, and thus were the Short Pump Bowl Champions for the first time since 1992. I had to just stand there a few minutes to take it all in. We all left the field, but we had some unfinished business to take care of. We got out the Sprites, shook them up, opened them, and started spraying them all around like teams do after they win a major sports championship. We walked out to the parking lot, and walked right past the buses where the Tigers were getting ready to leave. We gave them all high-fives and then went and found the car, but we weren’t going back home quite yet. The parking lot was full of cars, with their lights on, honking their horn. We stayed in the parking lot celebrating for about 20 more minutes, just as many other people were doing, even getting on the roof of the car, and honking the horn. The traffic was awful. But it was a Friday night, and Tucker had just won, and there was no need to rush home. Even as we drove out of the parking lot, we honked the horn. My voice was shot, and we all had a headache, but it was for a good cause; it had been one of the most exciting nights of all time. It was “Friday Night Lights” at its finest, maybe the Greatest Game Ever Played.