It could turn out to be the play of the season. As the players lined up, the gloom of the Miller Field air surrounded the Viking faithful. Fourth and goal from the Winthrop one yard line for division foe, Saugus. These were very scary scary moments for the 2012 Winthrop ViIkings on this mid-October eve. The prospects weren’t good. If Sachem’s kicker, Zach Verrengia, converted this overtime field goal attempt, a kick easier than an extra point, the Vikes would have opened divisional play 0-1, and hopes to represent the division come playoff time would have fallen quicker than an Autumn leaf.
Then, in the bat of an eye, the Viking fortunes turned as fast as that Autumn leaf. Should the Vikes make the “2012 Show” they can look back at what transpired next as the play of the season. The kick was blocked by a Viking rush led by senior Dan Feeley. From there, Ruben Powell’s instincts and speed took over. As Powell tells it, “the ball sat there for three seconds”. Most folks witnessing the event – well, this writer anyway – thought it was a dead ball. Powell knew better.
“We talked about the rule probably since my freshman year. He (Coach Driscoll) has been saying before the game that if the ball is on their line of scrimmage pick it up and run with it. See how far you can go, you know, pitch it back to other players or do anything can just to get it in the endzone.
I think mostly nobody knew where the ball was. I mean there was Dan Feeley under me. There were other kids to my right and my left and I wasn’t down yet. I just looked down and saw the ball there and spent like three seconds. I was like ‘oh, it’s still in play,’ so I just picked up and started running and nobody realized it.”
Did he look back at all? “Ya, when I was around the 20 yard line I looked back and saw one of my players. I knew I was home free.”
The final score also freed the fans of anymore guesswork. Up to that point, the crowd had been teased relentlessly by both squads. The Vikings looked good driving into the Sachem red zone as the clock was winding down under the six minute mark of the fourth quarter. The drive eventually fizzled inside the 10. Moments later, it was Saugus looking like they might pull it out, but a 39 yard FG attempt by Verrengia with under a minute to go failed as well. So it was onto OT and eventually the play of the season.
The play, like the game, induced much mystery. Sure the kick was blocked. The Viking fans had already erupted in joy secure in that knowledge alone. But “three seconds” later Powell emerged from the rubble and took off for Viking pay dirt. Even as the jubilant Viking crowd took their celebration to another level, and as the Viking squad pounced on Powell in the end zone, the referees conferred at midfield, the coaches stood still in anticipation of the results of that confab, and no call as yet had come from the booth for fear of a false victory call should the play be overturned. The ref’s discussion was short, maybe three seconds, and the signal out of it was to the home team’s liking. Touchdown Powell!!
What looked surely to be a crushing 10-7 OT loss to open up division action for the Vikings as the play materialized, approximately 92 yards later, turned into a 13-7 victory.
All of this begged the question directed specifically at Powell. Was he concerned that the TD might not stand? “I mean I didn’t have enough time to think about it because I was in the endzone. I had Jake McKinnon jumping on me … everyone on top of me … so I really had no clue.”
Driscoll was happy that the referees had chose to let the ball sit there until someone knew to do something with it. “I was impressed the
referees didn’t blow the whistle too quick on that play.”
Asked if he was impressed that the team is listening to his pregame preaching after being reminded that Powell credited such teachings for knowing to run with it, Coach Driscoll stated very matter-of-factly that the lesson had been in place “for a long as he could remember … going back to my assistant coaching days. Every game! Part of the pregame walk through. Always go over special teams.”
He also wanted it known that he was very impressed with his defense on this night. Both he and Powell raved that the Viking D stood strong all night versus a good Saugus team to put Powell in position to make The Play. Driscoll blushed, “we have a lot of the same guys on offense that go to defense and they could have had their heads down, but they made the plays!”
Both Driscoll and Powell also agreed that it was a great win, but it’s time to move forward. The coach quipped that he hoped the win sets the tone for the rest of the year. Powell was more extensive, ” Ya it was great. You know you get a lot of congratulations and stuff but you realize you get another game to look forward to.”
So as the Vikings move forward, they do so knowing that their goals are much more attainable now then they were back at the outset of that final fourth and one on Friday night. The Play of The Season is a big reason. So, Sean, Ruben, don’t mind us if we relive it here. It was a play with a background and description well worth rehashing for a long while.