“GOOGLE IT, REF!!!”
A football spectator – in this case an adult of the male variety – was kindly requesting via high-volume, full-throated screamage that a football official go to Google to check a rule in the midst of a game. The officials working Friday’s contest at Brooklyn Center High School didn’t pull out a smart phone and do so, but they got the call correct.
The situation: Brooklyn Center’s offense had been flagged for delay of game late in the fourth quarter. Before the next snap, the clock was running. This was incorrect. The officials gathered, discussed and sent word to the clock operator to put 1:57 on the clock instead of the 1:33 that was displayed.
This was a pivotal, high-pressure spot for both teams. The Broncos of International Falls were fully aware that the 300-mile drive home (reversing the journey they had made earlier in the day with a 7:30 a.m. departure) would seem much shorter if they could somehow pull out their first victory of the season.
The Centaurs of Brooklyn Center, hoping to end a two-game losing streak and improve their record to 3-4 with a Homecoming win, were in front 26-24 in these final two minutes of one of the most intriguing matchups of 2016. The margin was thanks to a two-point conversion run by fleet-footed, strong-armed Centaurs quarterback Dayvia Gbor; his dash to the end zone in the third quarter was the only successful conversion in an eight-touchdown game that was not on either team’s schedule initially.
If you Google the words “Minnesota teams that dropped varsity football 2016” you may find references to St. Paul Humboldt and Duluth Marshall. Because those two schools did so, Brooklyn Centaur and International Falls each had a Week 7 blank spot on their schedules. After a few phone calls and emails, Friday’s game was set.
International Falls is, of course, way way up there where you can spit out your gum and watch it land in Canada. Brooklyn Center, if you didn’t know, is a first-ring suburb perched on the northwest shoulder of Minneapolis. Earlier in the week, Brooklyn Center activities director Nate Gautsch asked the Centaurs if any of them knew where International Falls was. “I got a lot of blank looks,” he said.
After Friday’s game, I asked a group of Broncos if they knew anything about Brooklyn Center before this week. “No, not really,” said senior quarterback Tyler Coffield. “We knew it was in the Cities, I guess.”
Once the scoreboard clock was corrected, the Broncos stopped the Centaurs on fourth down. International Falls took over with 61 seconds and 68 yards standing between them and victory. Their challenge was finding a way to move downfield briskly, score and win the game. This was not an easy thing for an offense that had not scored in the three previous weeks, but their four-touchdown production in Friday’s game was something to lean on. Were they confident?
“Absolutely,” senior lineman Kjell Fogelberg said after the final whistle. “A minute in a football game is a long time and we used all that time with nothing but positive attitude and confidence, which helped with our drive.”
The Broncos are built on a ground attack, not downfield missiles. Coffield – whose breakaway ability was seen on an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter – was sacked on first down during the final drive and ran for 14 yards on the next snap. A pass to Simon Palm gained 11 but a holding penalty brought it back. A throw to Armandio Barrios put the ball on the Centaurs’ 38 with 26 seconds left, all timeouts extinguished and the clock running.
After another sack, Coffield spiked the ball with 4.5 seconds to go. There was not much drama in the final play of the night, which began with an all-out stampede by the Brooklyn Center defensive line, continued with a fumble and a scramble for the ball, and ended with the night’s final whistle.
The Broncos and their supporters were downcast at being 0-7. The Centaurs and their fans were thrilled to see their losing streak end.
“They didn’t drive six hours down here for nothing,” Brooklyn Center coach Anthony Satchel said. “I told our team it was another dogfight. We were in dogfights the past two weeks and we finally got one.”
Football can be a game of inches, to be sure. Had the Broncos made a two-point conversion, the outcome may have been different. Had they made two of those, they may be 1-6.
Broncos senior running back Nick Hedtke, who scored on three short touchdown runs, said, “We played one heck of a game. A few mistakes is what really killed us.”
“We absolutely had chances,” said International Falls coach Tony Casareto. “I’m proud of the kids and how they played tonight. We hadn’t scored in three games; we moved the ball well and I thought we moved the ball with power. The kids maintained some blocks to the second level. I’m pleased with that. It was a great experience and a great day.”
The great experience and great day included an off-the-field memory that will be a lasting one. The Broncos arrived at Brooklyn Center in time to attend the Centaurs’ Homecoming pepfest. And they were treated right: A large sign in the gym read “Welcome, International Falls.”
The pepfest opened with a thunderous cheer for the Broncos from the Brooklyn Center students who filled every seat in the gym. Among the activities was a tug-of-war, with boys from the two football teams joining together to defeat the coaches from both teams. High fives all around.
After the football game, 30 pizzas were delivered for the Broncos to devour on the long bus ride home. The boys from way way up north would get some sleep and return to the practice field at 4 p.m. Saturday in preparation for Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Crosby-Ironton.
“We can take a lot of positive things out of this,” Casareto said.
Fogelberg agreed with his coach. “We couldn’t finish it but we didn’t give up,” Kjell said. “That was the big thing.”
It sure was. And there’s no need to Google that.--To see a photo gallery from the pepfest and the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 110
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 3,676
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn