Editor's note: In this unprecedented, unexpected time with no games to watch, our staff of five reminisces about the best games they've covered during their time as News-Post sports reporters.
Lingering in the background of one of the photos our own Bill Green snapped on this night as Urbana’s football players went bonkers, there’s someone who looks familiar.
He’s holding a pen and smiling along with a klatch of elated kids who had mohawks and bleached hair.
It’s me. And I actually had some hair then, too.
Has it really been nearly two decades since this game? For goodness sake, we’re talking about a time before Rick Conner was Linganore’s head football coach. I mean, Conner has been at Linganore forever, right?
I might’ve needed a refresher on the specifics before I wrote this, but certain fragments of this game are burned into my memory, no matter how many years have passed. I remember the key players, the historic tableau, the extra deadline pressure that always came with iffy dial-up modems of that era.
And I darn sure remember how it ended.
It was heart-stopping. Or very nearly.
In the afterglow of victory on that Byrd Stadium field, Urbana defensive stud Travis Sheets told me that he thought he was going to need a respirator due to the high drama.
Unfortunately, respirators are in demand for other more serious reasons right now — reasons that have put a halt to sports and caused us to create content like this to fill our section every day.
Speaking of his own heart that night, legendary Hawks coach Dave Carruthers said, “I thought this baby was gonna jump out of my chest!”
It’s the best quote I ever got from the famously dry Carruthers, who was still dripping from a celebratory ice-water bath as he delivered the comment on that unseasonably sweaty Nov. 30 night — when Urbana entered the state record books with its fourth straight state title and 50th straight win.
Those accomplishments were never a foregone conclusion that night, though.
Recounting the scoring won’t cost much ink. Urbana went up 7-0 in the second quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Joe Conner to Billy Gaines and an extra-point kick by Eric Lenz. Beyond that, the Hawks struggled to do much offensively while holding on for dear life as Patuxent star Terry Caulley rushed for 306 yards against a renowned defense coordinated by Conner, who left Urbana to take over at Linganore a few months later.
Despite Caulley’s numbers, Conner texted me the key to the game earlier this week: “We stopped them on fourth down 8 of 9 tries.”
His next text was a smiley-face emoji with heart-shaped eyes.
However, there was no stopping Caulley when he broke loose for a lickety-split 88-yard TD run on which he out-sprinted Gaines — owner of a 4.22 40-yard dash — in the third quarter.
Fortunately for the Hawks, someone — there's a question as to whether it was Lenz or Pat Sullivan — bent around the end and blocked the extra-point kick, preserving their one point lead.
Still, when Caulley finally converted a fourth-and-1 — “by inches,” Conner reminds us — to set up first-and-goal from the 9 in the game’s waning moments, it seemed like Urbana’s dynasty was set to expire, too.
But Patuxent was backed up by a penalty and further stymied by the Hawks. So kicker Ryan Payne lined up with 10 seconds left for a 27-yard field-goal attempt to win it.
His kick went wide right.
The Hawks were champs again, partly due to a TD by the phenomenal Gaines — “his last one ever,” Conner noted — and a meaningful kick by the incredible Lenz.
Sadly, in the years that followed, Gaines (2003) and Lenz (2016) both died.
But around these parts, they’ll never be forgotten.
Neither will this game.
Follow Joshua R. Smith on Twitter: @JoshuaR_Smith