West Seattle made their way to North Creek High for the second time this year. The first meeting was game four of the season. That game was played to determine which team would hold second place in the league. At that point in the year, both teams had been through one defeat. For both West Seattle and North Creek, that defeat had come from Everett. The team from Everett held the top spot in the league. This game would be played for a more important reason that second place. The game on this Saturday evening would be contested for the opportunity to play for a championship the following week. Their game in week four was won by the Jags 38-12 and the halftime score was 16-6. Those margins had me thinking this game would be won by the Jags with relative ease. Unlike the previous couple weeks, my drive to North Creek was met by threatening skies. The forecast had a nearly 100% chance of rain during the contest. So, my rain jacket was thrown in the car and off to North Creek I went. Running slightly behind schedule, by the time I arrived, the Jags were moving into position to begin.
It was clear in approaching the field that our game was getting ready to begin. So, just like the previous weeks, I walked around the bleachers to watch the game from the far side. The similar emptiness on that side took me by surprise this week. For a playoff game, I thought there could be more parents wanting to stand. But, to my delight, there was plenty of empty space. My buddy spotted me from the sideline before the game began. He jogged over to the chest high fence for a quick hello. With little time before the game began, he had to get back to the sideline. The two teams met at midfield again to meet each other, the officials, and the athletic trainer for the evenings contest. Game time was set for 4:30 on the late fall evening. The clouds were darkening the sky, rain was beginning to fall lightly, and the field lights were fending off the darkness. It was going to be a damp night for football. The meeting broke up and the Jags walked back to the near sideline. They would be starting the game on defense, as the coaches gathered them, and sent the defense out onto the wet field turf.
The game started with West Seattle on offense. Some things were learned from the last meeting in week four. One of them was how explosive the West Seattle running back could be. He wore the number 16 and broke a couple long runs for touchdowns in that previous matchup. The Jaguar defense would be served best by containing his big play ability. The defense could also be helped by their offense controlling the ball with lengthy offensive possessions. It was a mixture that worked well when these two teams played the first time. As West Seattle began the evening with the ball, they handed it their running back a few times. West Seattle worked their way down the field, taking about four minutes off the game clock. They completed their opening drive by running the ball in from three yards out for a touchdown. The Jags, then took the ball for their opening possession of the contest. Their offense took its time moving the ball down field with running plays. The end result was a touchdown, matching the beginning drive by West Seattle. Making the extra point by the Jag quarterback/kicker, kicking the ball through the goal posts, gave the Jags one extra point. So, the Jaguars led the contest.
Tension seemed to build as the first half progressed. A point of confusion arose, when a vaguely herd whistle seemingly blew a play dead, but the play continued. It turned into a West Seattle pass play that went for a touchdown. The play was called back and confusion took over the field, because the whistle didn’t end the play. To end controversy, the ball was placed at the completion of the catch, and on the game continued. It was an interesting situation to witness. The whole scenario didn’t become clear until speaking with my buddy later. As the first half continued forward, the Jags had a couple offensive drives stall, by turning the ball back over to West Seattle. There were a couple fourth downs they couldn’t convert. While West Seattle was able to contribute a long offensive drive to end the half. They put together a long run play and another successful pass. The half ended with that drive being capped with a West Seattle touchdown. Heading into intermission, the Jags trailed 13-8. It felt like a tough first half for the Jags.
As the second half began, the rain had truly arrived. It was falling steadily in the glow of the field lights. The Jags began with the ball, in need of an offensive spark. That first possession gave them the spark they needed. The Jags converted a fourth down, ran the ball successfully, and converted a pass play. They had another well put together drive later in the second half. That second drive starting with a fumble recovery by the Jaguars. However, West Seattle would not go quietly. They kept fighting by putting together touchdown scoring drives. The first came off a long run by their quick running back. Starting from about mid field, he avoided a few would-be tacklers, and broke away, running in for a touchdown. West Seattle would score again later in the half, gaining the ball after the Jags were stopped on fourth down. They put together a touchdown scoring drive, taking the lead by three points, and leaving just three minutes remaining on the clock. It left the Jags enough time to score.
These situations might be among the best reasons for kids to play sports. It was a playoff game with three minutes left. The lead had moved from one team to the other as the evening progressed. Now, on a rain soaked night, the Jags had to take the ball down, and score. They needed points to play for a championship the following week. The Jags were able to begin moving the ball with success, but ended the drive with a fumble, and West Seattle recovered. Even with the turnover, there was still some hope. The Jags defense, aided by timeouts, were able to stop West Seattle, forcing them to make a rare punt. In our league, a punt cannot be blocked or returned. So, the Jags got the ball back on offense with around a minute left. It just turned out to not be enough time for a successful offensive drive. The Jaguars would take the lose 27-24 on the rainy October night.
The final three minutes of this game seemed to contain pressure. Our lives carry certain amounts of pressure from time to time. Learning how to deal with tense situations seems valuable as we go through life. So, as the clock ticked down, the Jaguar players weren’t just trying to win a playoff game, they were learning something about life. Win or lose, those moments were preparing them for the future. The saddening part was that this time the Jags would end on the disappointing side of the contest. This game came down to the end, with the chance to win still hanging in the balance. Like the Jaguars did after losing the first game, they continued to play hard. They didn’t give up after experiencing adversity and feeling pressure. The players hung in there, continuing to show effort until the clock showed three zeros. Even through the disappointment of the moment, there was something special happening, as the lights shined through the sheets of rain. Life doesn’t always turn out in our favor, but it’s often the things we learn inside those moments that help us grow.