And it continued to go our way. Tyler Tabor pinned the Purple deep in their territory with a fine punt, and when their quarterback went back to pass, our defensive end, Keith Melcher, got him in the end zone for a safety to make it 9-0.
Then something went haywire. I hate to say where, but I think you're going to figure it out. After the safety, Hammel took us down the field again. With time running out in the first half, we were on the Purple's 10-yard line with second down and goal to go. I took our last timeout, and we had a sideline conference. I wanted a timing pass to the corner of the end zone, with Hammel to throw it away if he couldn't be sure of a completion. That would kill the clock and give us time to get the field goal unit in.
Sidelines are fierce places to try to plot strategy. First of all there is that damn 30-second clock. If you think it's tough on quarterbacks, it's pure hell on the coach who is trying to consider yardage and down and what play to call. And there is always somebody asking you something. Or telling you something. Or just making noise in your ear.
That sounds like just about as good an excuse as any for what happened next. Instead of throwing the timing pass into the end zone, Hammel went to the tight end for a short completion. The end caught the pass but forgot to get out of bounds. Hammel forgot the clock was running and failed to line up the team and throw out of bounds. And I got confused between third and fourth downs and somehow forgot to get the field goal unit on the field in time. It was all one industrial-sized mistake.
The second half was not nearly as confused or as much fun. We had been able to rattle the Purple quarterback in the first half, but midway into the third quarter he started acting like he enjoyed the blitz, because he marched his team down the field and threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to cut our lead to 9-7.
That didn't seem to satisfy him. After Canady fumbled—what else?—this time on our own 20, Kyle Dalton threw for another touchdown.
They missed the PAT, and it was 13-9. I was getting tired of our stagnant nine points. Our punt returner must have sensed that, With a minute to go in the quarter, he took a short, line-drive punt and, behind a good wall of blocking, returned it 73 yards for a touchdown. We missed the PAT, too, but it was still our lead, 15-13.
A field goal, I was uncomfortably aware, could wrest the lead back, but we had Whitten in there. So what was the fear? I shortly found out. We couldn't move the ball. Someone wearing Darrell Harkless's number kept making tackles and either intercepting or knocking away passes. I knew it couldn't be Harkless himself because, when I had protested about pulling Whitten, Hess had vowed he would bench Harkless. And I knew this couldn't be Harkless because I had already seen him for three quarters. No, this had to be some impostor.
But he played an awful lot like Harkless. With time running out the player, whoever he was, intercepted one of Whitten's passes, jumping about eight feet in the air to do so, and the Purple shortly were within field goal range.
I have very little to add except to tell you that they kicked the field goal to go ahead 16-15. We spent most of the final seconds trying to find a place to throw the football where Harkless's double wouldn't suddenly appear. We couldn't find it. The final was 16-15.