PM November 2, 1962
Cody High School, Wyoming
“Touchdown Powell! Panthers lead the Broncs thirty-one to nothing!”
The collective groan of the hometown crowd reverberated around the stadium.
Scarlett Redman did her best to keep a smile on her face as she led the cheer squad through their routine. A deflated crowd never cheered when the writing was on the wall, but the squad needed to stay warm. Her tied-back auburn hair spun through the air as she put an extra bit of energy into the cheer, hoping that there was enough time for a Cody touchdown.
“The kick is good for Powell! Thirty-two to nothing, with two minutes left to play. Coach Martoglio calls a time-out for Cody.”
The home team trudged to the sideline, the Friday night lights looking accusingly upon their blue and gold protective gear. The coach, unmistakable with his cowboy hat, large frame glasses and smoking pipe, drew the team in around him to describe the final plays of his coaching tenure.
Lawrence Martoglio, affectionately known as “Shad”, had announced his retirement from football coaching two weeks earlier. The team had responded with a win against Rock Springs the following week, bringing their season record to two wins and seven losses. This week’s game against Powell, the most important of the season, had taken on extra importance. To farewell Coach Martoglio with the first win in four years over their black and orange rivals had been the talk of the town for the past week, and to have fallen short by such a sizeable margin would be a bitter disappointment.
The crowd confirmed the esteem that the small town of Cody had for the coach. The temperature was edging towards freezing, yet the almost five thousand townsfolk had packed into the Cody High School grounds. A sizeable number of spectators had travelled from Powell to pay their respects, while important dignitaries had travelled from as far as the state capital of Laramie, and even interstate from Denver in Colorado, Billings in Montana and Findlay in Ohio.
The Cody Broncs returned to the field from their huddle, a noticeable sense of purpose in their step. The Powell Panthers did the same, triumph written across their shielded faces. The visiting side’s kicker lined up, punting the ball towards the hometown fullback. The Bronc charged, fearless of the approaching Panthers, and fully trusting his herd to defend him. A pair of swift side steps got him across the fifty yard line, reaching the thirty yard line before the Powell safeties dropped him to the ground.
Life sprang into the Cody crowd, wildly cheering at seeing their team refusing to go quietly into the sunset of the season. This was Powell they were up against, and they were not going to have the last say in this game. The atmosphere fed into the cheerleaders, who were putting every cheer and bit of energy they had into the final minutes.
The Powell team had played solid defence the whole game, making the Cody team earn every first and ten. The Broncs showed their determination, risking a pair of fourth and fives to battle through their opponents’ line.
The game clock had five seconds remaining, with Cody in possession on a third and goal. The previous two passes had been thwarted, the defensive pressure stopping the Bronc wide receivers gaining enough free room to receive the pigskin from the quarterback. The teams set up their lines of scrimmage, the seven men in each forward line looking to subdue their foes just enough to let their team mate evade or plant their opposing position.
Cody’s quarterback, Dwayne Matthews, made his final call as a Bronc.
“Bowtie! Hourglass! Hut!”
There was a crash of body armour and grunts of effort as the forwards crashed into each other. The left-hand wide receiver drew Powell’s cornerback and outside linebacker in his first three steps, making a split-second side-step to make a beeline for the Powell safety on the opposite side of the field. His matching position on the right-hand side of the field needed to avoid only a cornerback, his outside linebacker having their hands full fighting off the tight end. Mirroring his teammate, he angled for the second Powell safety on the left of the turf. The Cody quarterback patiently waited behind the frontline, watching his two wide receivers crisscross the field with five Panthers in pursuit.
He threw for the left-hand corner of the end zone. The left-hand wide receiver had successfully drawn four players into pursuing him, while the right ran for the corner with only his opposing cornerback doggedly trying to catch him. The left-hand Powell defenders were unable to reverse their momentum as the Bronc ran for the line behind them. The ball looked just above the fingertips of the Cody right wide receiver, and headed for the end line.
He jumped in the air, the tips of his fingers just able to curl the ball back into his body. He held it tightly to his chest as he crashed to the end zone turf, barely an inch from the end line.
The crowd erupted as if the game had been won, though the Broncs would still fall at least twenty five points shy of the victory. Coach Martoglio cheered from the sideline, his smoking pipe clenched in his raised right hand. The Cody team huddled in to congratulate each other on sending the coach out with the last scoring points of his last game.
The Cody kicker easily slotted the pigskin through the uprights to earn the point after touchdown. The referee blew the whistle for full time, the visiting Powell Panthers defeating the Cody Broncs thirty-two to seven.
The Broncs players on field and on the bench gathered around Coach Martoglio, hoisting him on their shoulders and giving him a lap around the playing field. The coach waved to the spectators in the stands and around the field, even the Powell team joining in the applause for an outgoing coaching legend.
The television crew from Billings followed the lap of honour. Despite the important people in the stands, Coach was the most important dignitary this night.
– Î –