Sectional Championship, Take 2
We're playing a school from our own district, well-coached, well-prepared, a solid team who played us harder than any other team this year. Coming down the ramp, they look much more the part then we do. The have warm-ups and matching socks, and we look like a bunch of scrubs with different shorts and different colored socks -- a fact the ref points out in an agressive arrogant manner that future events will reveal as his modus operandi. The clouds roll in, the wind kicks up, and you know it's gonna be a good game.
The first oh-shit moment comes early in the game when one of our best players, O., is called for off-sides, turns to the line-judge and raises his arms in a what-gesture. The ref comes sprinting over, whips out the yellow and screams "Off!" in the kid's face. Now O. is a kid with such profound anger-management issues he was de-enrolled from the special anger-management program (ironically located at our opponent's school). He's made massive improvements this year, thanks especially to a great teacher who kept offering love and wouldn't give up, but still everyone's waiting for him to explode, get the second yellow, and get kicked out. He doesn't. He comes to the bench and talks about keeping his mouth shut and playing with cabeza fria.
The second oh-shit moment comes right before half, when they score on a high ball to the corner of the net -- a really nice goal, and only the second shot they've taken all game.
We start the half down 1-0, and I expect us to come out on fire but it doesn't happen. They are very good and playing us to a stalemate. Time drags on and it starts to rain. We keep waiting for the goal but it doesn't come. We have four corners, the last one a really well-struck ball, hanging right in the box, but we can't get a head on it. Time drags on and things look bleak. This team has not been shut-out all season.
On a throw-in the coach asks how much time and the ref says regulation just ended and he's adding two minutes. Two minutes left in our season. More time drags and then we get a free kick from maybe thirty yards out. Coach calls a left-footed defender up, a kid who has barely played all year because of injury, and he floats a ball into the box.
And it keeps floating. And turning, and floating, and the keeper reaches a hand and can't get it. It's too high, I think, and then the wind hits it, knocks it down, and into the net.
Everyone goes crazy. I'm screaming, the players have jumped on the goal-scorer, I'm physically grabbing reserve players to keep them from running illegally onto the field, and the next minute goes by in a blur and we go to penalties.
Down on one knee with the reserves, I watch as we go back and forth on the first two rounds. That long walk from midfield to the penalty line. That no-breath moment after the whistle blows, as the kids makes a little jog toward the ball. Our keeper gets a hand on the second shot, but it still goes in. We hit the third and on their third, our keeper again gets a hand on it, the ball squirts to the side and out of bounds. We're going crazy again. We step up and hit the forth, they put their forth over the crossbar, and the kids rush the field, singing and chanting and jumping and leaping. Then they run en mass to the sidelines and mob their coach. On the bus they pass the trophy and chant every player's name in turn. We are sectional champions, and for a little awhile at least, there is no happier group of people in the entire 408.