Smile Politely

Mudmen of the hour

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

– G. K. Chesteron

Mother Nature has lent a helping hand to some of the most memorable games in professional football history. The Packers edged Dallas to win the 1967 NFL Championship in sub-zero conditions at Lambeau Field; the event has since been and will forever be known as the “Ice Bowl”. 1982’s “Snowplow Game” is noteworthy for its absurd finish: New England Patriots coach Ron Meyer ordered a stadium worker to clear a spot on the Foxboro Stadium AstroTurf so his placekicker could beat Miami with a late-fourth-quarter field goal. (Not coincidentally, the NFL soon thereafter banned the use of on-field snow-removal devices during games.) Six years later, Mike Ditka’s Bears and Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles met in a playoff war that few people saw; Chicago won the “Fog Bowl” 20-12 somewhere between Soldier Field’s hallowed walls.

At the prep level, the stakes aren’t quite as high. Kids aren’t playing for their livelihoods – at least, most of them aren’t. Networks aren’t filling broadcast booths with Enbergs and Olsens for their Must-See-TV productions. And coaches like Meyer aren’t doing whatever it takes to win—at least, we hope they aren’t. In the high school games we’ve seen this fall, the spirit of the sport is what has counted most. Ninety-nine percent of the Central Illinois players we’ve watched aren’t vying for collegiate athletic scholarships. Rather, they’re simply out there having a grand ol’ time with their friends. Playing football in the mud.

Mother Nature had quite a laugh at Mahomet-Seymour last Friday night. Forty-eight consecutive hours of rainfall gutted the Bulldogs’ field, and, if truth be told, gave the pass-happy home team a slight advantage against #1-ranked Bloomington Central Catholic. Or at least leveled the playing field.

The monsoon was kind enough to relent just as we left the city limits of Champaign. The gridiron having been transformed into an absolute bog, it looked for all the world as if this would be trench warfare in mold of Ypres, decided by the big uglies at the line of scrimmage. Surveying the teams as they lined up across from one another, the advantage clearly lay with Bloomington Central Catholic.

All quiet on the Western Front? Not if Iron Maiden has anything to say about it.

Nevertheless, M-S tosser Quentin McNew burned the Saints with several well-timed strikes, many of which left defenders stuck in the mud trying to follow the routes of end Ryan Ohl. The splendid wideout finished off the game’s two touchdown plays – the first a 35-yard sideline connection that gave the Bulldogs a 7-3 third-quarter lead; the second, just minutes later, a quick slant from the 4. That pair of scores, combined with inspired defensive play, vaulted Mahomet to a 14-5 upset victory.


This edition of Catholics vs. Canines was a Tale of Twelve Turnovers. The Bulldogs lost three fumbles and McNew was picked off twice. (He was not at fault either time. One intended receiver fell to the turf before a pass arrived, and another let a perfectly-thrown ball slide through his hands and into the arms of an opportunistic defender.)

BCC, meanwhile, was victimized in nearly every possible manner. There was the greased watermelon slipping out of quarterback Kevin Rollins’ hand mid-throw and floating helplessly towards a Mahomet linebacker. There was the mishandled shotgun snap. There was the failed (and ill-conceived) fake punt, where the ball bounded away from the Saints’ seemingly surprised up-man and to their equally surprised punter, who in turn could not salvage a kick. There were seven Central Catholic giveaways in all, though some could be labeled as takeaways by the stout Bulldog D. Leading 14-3 late in the final period of play, that defense enjoyed its finest moment—a goalline stand that kept the Catholics out of the end zone. That Mahomet suffered a safety immediately after the change of possession was of no consequence, as its comfortable margin held to the buzzer.

BCC had its chances to get back into the game, helped in no small part by Mahomet’s desire to return the favor in sharing the ball. Yet, every time Mahomet needed a stop on third and short, the defensive line held fast, overcoming a size deficit with the sheer will to win.


For a squad that had lost its first two games of this season, Mahomet’s handling of the state’s top-ranked Class 4A team was a monumental achievement. The Bulldogs are now one victory away from clinching a playoff berth, and they can move into a three-way tie for first place in the Corn Belt Conference with a Friday triumph over Stanford and a Central Catholic defeat of new-#1 Rochester.


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