Hugs, cheers, tears: Victory brings out emotional reaction
Whoever said covering high school football wasn't a tough job must not have had to chase down more than a hundred players and coaches who were going bonkers after one of the most amazing playoff games in state history.
What's even more surprising, this writer even had an edge over most, a set of wheels and a fully charged battery. But, that still wasn't enough when MacArthur's Jimi Denning kicked a PAT in overtime to lift the Highlanders to an improbably 50-49 victory over McAlester in the 5A state semifinals Friday night.
When the kick went through the uprights celebrations erupted all over the field. A group formed near the end zone, but while zipping toward them I saw another group running the other way. A quick U-turn proved why, Denning had sprinted to the other end of the field for some reason and his adoring teammates chased him down for the traditional dog-pile.
There was no time to be interviewed by some lame sports writer, it was time to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime-miracle. A group would form, then dissolve when they spotted another hot spot; yes, everywhere I turned there were players, coaches, cheerleaders, plus even a few daring fans who jumped the fence, celebrating the wild comeback.
This was a time for hugs, cheers and tears.
So many emotional memories to stockpile in my mind but clearly my fondest will be the bear hug between a father and son Brett and Ernie Manning. The former head coach older and wiser and the young head man who put this all together with a style of calm, quiet leadership.
Oh sure he had the strong, dynamic voices to deliver a message at times if the occassion warranted, but most often it was his calming voice that was the last thing the Highlanders heard before, and after any game.
As I watched them hug, I wanted to know what they said, but wasn't about to ask. It was their moment. They deserved this brief calm as the MacArthur world celebrated around them in a raucous moment.