Seahawks at the Goal Line – Been There, Done That
Today the Northwest is full of angst as the great public opines on the Seahawk’s failure to score from the one-yard line at the end of a game.
I’ve been mulling over my own experience with this – for 58 years…
Set the time machine to the fall of 1961. I was in 9th grade, the co-captain of a not very good Deephaven Junior High football team. Oddly, we were unbeaten at 6-0 in 8th grade and went 0-6 in 9th grade. All of the 9th grade games were very close, which was scant comfort.
Back in those pre-historic days football players played both offense and defense, at least the starters did. As well as kickoffs and punts. You were on the field the entire game. On offense I was the center, and on defense the center linebacker.
On this occasion we were playing at Mound Junior High (home of Tonka Toys!) on a cold and misty Minnesota fall day.
The team from Mound was not that good either. Their offense consisted almost entirely of handing the ball off to their monstrous fullback, who would crash into the line for a few yards and some slopped up mud.
That fullback terrified me. He seemed this hulking presence of horrific might and power. I referred to him as “Bronko,” in honor of famed University of Minnesota running back Bronko Nagurski from decades before. The real one went on to play for the Chicago Bears and then spent a productive life running a gas station in International Falls, Minnesota. That town is often mentioned as the coldest spot in the nation. Bronko was a tough guy.
Anyway, on almost every play their quarterback would hand the ball off and my nemesis would crash into a small hole in the line. I had two choices. I could run away screaming like a sensible person, or put my head down and crash into him. That is what I did – play after play.
At some point Mound scored a touchdown but failed on the extra point. As the game neared the end, we were driving down the field, at last, and reached the two-yard line with time for one last play. Sound familiar?
The play called for my neighbor Joel Peterson, the right guard, to perform a “cross-block” with me. I would hike the ball and drive their left guard to the right, and Joel would drive their nose tackle to the left. Somewhat surprisingly, we did this perfectly, and opened a hole about 6 yards wide. Our halfback, for reasons I’ve never understood, went to the right and ran smack into a pile of three Mound players I had created.
Game over. Joel and I stood there in the rain, speechless, the swath of open ground right there between us. Our coach was so mad he did not even ride back on the bus with us, and I could not blame him. It was a quiet ride.
One small ray of sunshine did occur. After the game Bronko walked up to me. With his helmet off, his face was as intimidating as the rest of him. A small trickle of blood ran from his lip down his chin. “Nice game,” he mumbled, shook my hand, and walked away. I have seldom felt so honored.
David Preston Copyright 2019
P.S. A few weeks after the season ended, fall grades came home and my parents informed me that my days as a football player were now ended. Probably for the best.