We walked out on our home field for our first shot at a ring. The stadium was electric. I could feel the chills up my spine as the national anthem was wrapping up. As I stood next to my brothers, we remembered the pain of losing the past two years in semi-state, and the tears falling from the senior’s eyes after those games. Culver drew first blood only 15 seconds into the game and we found ourselves down 8-11 at half. As we sat in the locker room at halftime, our team was composed. We’d been a 4th quarter team all year, and we knew it only would take one goal to turn loose our high-powered offense.
The entire third quarter, Culver continued to dominate the face-off X and get uncontested shots off. Culver buried three goals to start the second half. Coach Beesley called a timeout and our team huddled up. In the huddle, I reminded the team all of the pain we persevered through to get to this moment. We didn’t get this far, to only get this far. It was win, or regret not winning for the rest of our lives. This is the last game we’d ever play together. From there on we left everything we had on the field.
We broke out of the timeout, certain as ever in our comeback ability. David Sage picked up the loose ball off the face-off, weaved through three defenders in transition, and passed to Tyler Renschen streaking down the middle of the field. Renschen shovel-passed to freshman phenom Ryan Kemp on the crease for a routine finish. Our offense ran over to the student section, signaling to them it was time to turn up. The crowd erupted. The momentum was ours.
To start the fourth quarter, we scored two quick goals to bring us within two points of tying the game. HSE: 12, Culver: 14. As I started to lose feeling in my legs, I limped off the field and onto the bench. The personal trainers stretched out my legs as I chugged pickle juice to ward the cramps off. Kemp scores. Culver gets a penalty. I limp back on the field and call out the play to our extra-man-offense. DeVoe passes the ball to me as I creep around on the crease with defenders on my back. I back up a few feet to avoid the ball being taken from me and dish to a wide-open Ryan Kemp on the wing. He buries it high for his second goal in one minute. With 6 minutes and 30 seconds left, the score is tied 14-14. We get a penalty. Our goalie Timmy Mathoudikis makes an unreal save and we clear the ball up-field. David Sage sets up for a dodge, jukes out his defender, and passes to me at my sweet-spot on the left side of the net. At this point, my entire body was cramping, and I could barely feel my shoulders or arms as I was shooting. I had practiced this shot a million times, I was hurting, but I wasn’t nervous. There was no chance I’d miss this shot, in this game, in this moment.
The ball struck the top right corner of the net, making the score 15-14, our first lead of the game, with 5 minutes left to go. The game was getting chippy and the penalties began to roll in. Culver’s offense panicked, taking unsolicited shots. Our man-down defense and goalie Timmy Mathoudikis held Culver scoreless despite a couple of close shots, two of which hit post. With a minute left in the game, we gained possession, and called a timeout. All we had to do was maintain possession and run out the clock. I checked myself out of the game and watched the ending with Coach Beesley. We put the ball in the hands of senior Tyler Renschen to clear the ball to the other side of the field. Renschen ran thru four defenders, tip-toed the sideline, and passed to Cam Smith behind the net. He ran around dodging defenders left and right. DeVoe got the ball and threw it sky-high as time expired.
The clock read all zeroes, HSE: 15, Culver: 14. The hair on my arms stood straight up, chills running up my spine, goosebumps everywhere. It was ecstasy. As I stood on the sideline hugging Coach Beesley, a G-tear ran down my face. The coaches and I stood together at a loss for words, just smiling, crying, and laughing. A plethora of emotion. We watched from the sideline as my teammates sprinted towards our goalie, throwing their helmets and sticks in the air as high as they could. Time was in slow-motion. The students jumped over the fence and joined the celebratory mosh-pit, all trying to get a glimpse of the state trophy at the center of the crowd. As I was walking towards the crowd on the field, the first thing that came to my mind was that I could live the rest of my life free from any regret concerning my last ever lacrosse game. My last game had to bring me a ring, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My brothers and I left it all on the field that day, completing the biggest comeback in Indiana Lacrosse State Championship history. It was the only way it could have happened. It was meant to be.