Adams: Miracle on Ricci Fields
Hayden Adams | Thursday, December 5, 2019
On a brisk December night in South Bend at 11 p.m., the Zahm House section football championship game between the first floor section 2B took place at Ricci Fields. The match was a thrilling push-and-pull, neck-and-neck contest between the top seeds in the playoffs.
The first floor (disclaimer, my team) jumped out to the early 1-0 lead, but the second floor team would respond with a touchdown of their own to even the score at one apiece. Even so, the first floor remained undaunted. Despite some special team lapses, including a dropped punt return by yours truly pinning us at our own one-yard line, the first floor still managed to establish a 3-1 advantage thanks to the play of junior wide receivers Matthew ‘Duffy’ Duffy and Joe Nowak.
2B would not go quietly, though, as key interceptions and a quarterback change allowed them to knot the score at 3-3. But then, the first floor would again take the lead at 4-3 and be within only one point of victory.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, 2B pulled a brilliant trick play as the receiver fielded the ball in the end zone and feigned a fair catch, sprinting by the unsuspecting opponent for an easy special teams score to bring the game to 4-4.
The momentum seemed to be going 2B’s way at that point, but sophomore quarterback and cornerback Riley Kennedy led the first floor on another scoring drive to go up 5-4, with the section rules dictating that a team must win by two points, unless extenuating circumstances come into play (spoiler alert, they would).
2B came right back with a touchdown of their own for the fourth tie of the contest. The first floor then struggled to move and were forced to punt and turn the ball over on downs, but the defense held firm. Led by freshman defensive lineman Charlie ‘Chip’ Martin, the defensive line recorded several sacks on Downey as they steamrolled 2B’s offensive line. One sack resulted in a safety which, according to the rules, required 2B to punt the ball away.
“It was all about the hard work,” said Martin. “And we played our game, they played their game. In the end, we came out stronger.”
As the game wore on for over an hour, both teams were due for a climactic finish. The first floor took a 6-5 lead and the defense held the opposition scoreless for two straight possessions, with freshman safety and receiver Parker Niehaus recording several pass break-ups. With the Ricci Field lights scheduled to shut off no later than 12:30 a.m., the first floor attempted to put the nail in the coffin and earn a decisive victory with one more score.
Despite suffering from a leg cramp, Nowak courageously sacrificed his body to stay on the field and help move the chains with a big reception. Then, he would write his name in the history books.
As the first floor faced fourth-and-goal just past the effective midway point of the field, Kennedy took a shot to the back corner of the end zone with Niehaus and Nowak facing three 2B defenders. What occurred next was nothing short of the most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, tear-inducing and legend-making play of the entire season.
Kennedy lofted the ball up with his signature throwing style and it came down into the fray. Nowak tipped the ball into the air and managed to grasp it on the edge of the end zone falling out of bounds. As the first floor jumped into a frenzy over the catch, an impassioned debate ensued over whether or not Nowak was inbounds when he gained possession of the ball.
Luckily for the first floor, freshman special teams contributor and amateur documentarian Daniel Romito was filming the final play and both squads huddled round the camera, watching the replay in slow motion and looking at the still shot to see where Nowak’s toes were at the moment of gaining possession. While I initially thought it was an incompletion, if I do say so myself, the evidence seems compelling that he was just inbounds and it was a touchdown, and Romito agreed.
“We have the tape,” Romito said. “Roll the tape!”
As the lights shut off, the first floor celebrated the victory as extenuating circumstances dictated the game be called based on the already lengthy duration of the match.
Deliberation over the final touchdown rages on to this day, but sophomore special teams contributor and team documentarian Glenn ‘Queens’ Fiocca put it in very simple terms.
“The debate is if we won by one or two [and] I think that that’s not much of a debate,” Queens said.
With the game in the books though, sophomore wide receiver and cornerback Dylan ‘Tate’ Anderson said the focus should shift to a different topic.
“The new debate is whether first floor can beat the Bengals,” Anderson said.
Senior first-floor resident assistant, captain and defensive/offensive lineman Michael ‘Mikey’ Nguyen expressed his sincere gratitude to the team for getting him his first championship.
“After four years of living in Zahm, and getting pretty close, it’s unbelievable to finally win the section ball championship,” Nguyen said. “… 2B is a great team full of talented guys that absolutely deserved to be in the championship, but tonight our guys really played their hearts out.”
The feeling of the team was probably summed up in no better terms than by Martin.
“Better team. We won.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.