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There Was Something in the Water Saturday Night
Saturday night could have been Halloween night. Knightstown was playing Tri High. Everyone knew something strange was going to happen, you just didn’t know what or when.
The last time the Panthers and Titans played Brian Miller return two straight kickoffs for touchdowns and essentially won the game for the Tri, 35-14.
Saturday night in the rematch, things got even stranger and never really strayed from that theme. For 35 years Knightstown and Tri High football teams have given their fans more than their money’s worth. They didn’t disappoint, but everyone in attendance probably agreed they didn’t expect things to unravel the way they did.
I put a lot of thought in how to possibly describe what happened on the football field. It all started with: “It was a dark and stormy night….”
No, that was Friday, when heavy rains convinced Tri authorities to move the game to Saturday. That’s called a “rained-out football game,” for those unfamiliar with a phrase I’ve never used in over 30 years of writing about football.
Hmmm, too much rain to play football….. Or too much rain to throw the football?
Anyway, Saturday everyone made the trip over to the Titan field and all was well – except for one little thing. Knightstown players were drinking from Tri High Titan water bottles.
When the teams started to warm up for Saturday’s game, it was discovered that the Knightstown water girls, Cheyenne Conley and Rebecca Gross, had inadvertently left the team’s water bottles back at Knightstown High School. That was an unusual move for the two All-White River Athletic Conference Water Girls of the Year.
Coach Bob Prescott, in a bold attempt to retrieve the water bottles, broke from pre-game warm-ups and put his team in a punting situation. The center snapped the ball all the way over to the Panther field, and the players followed the ball over there and gathered up the water bottles.
Okay, I made that part up.
Tri Coach Bryan Peggs loaned Knightstown the bottles of water. But it was still an unusual sight, seeing those Panthers drinking from those Titan bottles.
As if he needed one, Coach Prescott also got an emotional lift when he spotted his mentor, Bob Bridge, standing near the Panther sideline. Bridge had coached North Miami to the 1993 Class A state championship. He had made the more than two-hour drive from Peru to watch his understudy over-achieve with this young Panther team.
Then there was a pretty wild football game.
The Panthers dominated the game in every aspect for over 43 minutes, leading 32-7 and heading toward another score.
Then suddenly there was a Knightstown turnover, which was subsequently followed by what would normally be every team’s worst nightmare. Tri scored three touchdowns in a span of 21 seconds.
The reason that’s not every team’s worst nightmare is that no team could even dream of having that happen, let alone actually doing it to another team.
But Tri did it.
And the Panthers survived it.
A lot of things change in this world, including football players and coaches. But one thing that seems to remain the same is the rivalry between the Panthers and the Titans. Expect the unexpected because it’s coming over to visit whether you invite it or not.
Some pretty amazing things happened in that game Saturday night, and it was hard for many fans to believe it came down to the Panthers converting on a crucial fourth down play inside one minute to play.
A little behind-the-scenes coaching strategy paid off dearly and kind of set the stage for the game. Knightstown won the coin toss and actually elected to kick off to the Titans to start the game. That was surprising since Tri had returned two kickoffs for touchdowns the last time the teams played.
It was a little bit of in-your-face strategy, with Knightstown sending the message to Tri that they weren’t intimidated by the threat of a repeat performance.
That swagger stayed around until the Panthers had built a 32-7 lead and were driving for another score with less than five minutes to play.
But then Tri recovered the fumble and miraculously scored three touchdowns in 21 seconds.
It must’ve been that water.
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