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.
By the time the stadium lights went dark for the second time, it was clear something extraordinary was at hand.
The Class 3A West football championship game, contested between a pair of state football blue bloods in Linganore and Damascus on Nov. 21, 2014, just about had it all.
There were the great athletes and rich histories of each program. There were high stakes, too, a championship game for the right to move on to the state semifinals for a pair of 11-0 teams.
But that game, one of the wildest and most memorable in state playoff history, will be forever defined by all of the other things that made it so great.
n The dramatic comeback: Linganore trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter and gave itself a chance to win.
n The unsung hero: Chris Connor, a senior and the second or third option in the Lancers’ running game, fueled the rally, averaging 11 yards each time he touched the ball.
n The decision: Go for 2 and the win or kick the game-tying extra point? That’s the season-on-the-line choice Linganore coach Rick Conner faced with about two minutes to play.
n The field: Frozen solid at game time with game-time temperatures hovering in the upper 20s. Players from both teams changed from cleats to tennis shoes. All of this factored into the pivotal sequence.
n The bizarre: How on earth do the stadium lights go out twice in the same game?
What more could you want?
Damascus was nursing a 7-0 lead at halftime when things began to get strange.
As the Damascus band performed at halftime, the stadium went completely dark. Remarkably, the band continued with its performance without missing a beat, paying no mind to the power outage that delayed the start of the second half by 15 minutes.
If that wasn’t enough, the lights cut out again with 37 seconds to play in the third quarter. Damascus had extended its advantage to 14-0 — the most points scored in a game against Linganore’s outstanding defense all season — on a 9-yard run by star running back Jake Funk, who now plays for the University of Maryland.
The crowd seemed amused by the second outage. The teams were perturbed as they scurried back into their locker rooms to wait out the delay. Reporters, like me, who had approaching deadlines were rolling their eyes in annoyance.
But then the game completely changed. Whatever power the stadium lacked seemed to be infused into the Lancers during the delay.
Connor, the reserve running back, caught fire, ripping off a string of big-yardage plays that fueled scoring drives for Linganore.
Junior quarterback Nathaniel Musselman, in trademark clutch fashion, tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior Adam Beisser at the pylon in the first minute of the fourth quarter to put the Lancers back in the game.
Then, facing a fourth-and-13, Musselman zipped a 14-yard pass over the middle to senior Grant Waxter to keep hope alive.
On third-and-13 from the Damascus 18, Musselman darted into the end zone himself to cut Linganore’s deficit to one.
There were 2 minutes and 1 second showing on the clock, and Conner faced the kind of decision that defines coaching careers. The season was on the line. All the momentum was on his side. Does he go for the win or the tie?
If he’s right, he is a genius. If he’s wrong, he’s second-guessed forever.
But Conner doesn’t flinch in these situations. Ever the play-to-win aggressor, he decided to go for 2 and the win.
Musselman, now wearing red sneakers because of the field, took the snap and surged forward on a QB sneak. But he slipped and never gained enough forward momentum.
He was stopped less than a yard from the goal line, and it was hard not to think that the field was to blame. Linganore went on to lose a heartbreaker 14-13.
Conner will look you in the eye today and tell you that he made the right call.
But the what-ifs and what-could-have-beens will live on in Linganore football infamy.