Sports fans in Appling County will be talking about the Lamar County football game for years to come. What a game! Not even present in the over-crowded stands, I was nonetheless glued to my radio, listening with bated breath to every play, especially during the four overtimes. When the announcer’s voice rose, so did my blood pressure.
“Touchdown, Pirates! No, wait. There’s a flag on the play!”
What, what, what? I’m muttering before he has a chance to announce what’s going on.
Appling County has a reputation for supporting the Pirates, no matter what, win or lose, good season, bad one. However, the fans really turned out on Friday, November 25, 2011, to make that long drive to Lamar County. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and many Baxley houses were still filled with out-of-town guests. No matter. True, dyed-in-the-wool Pirate football fans loaded up their guests or left them behind and steered their cars toward Barnesville and a game like none they’d ever seen before. Undefeated Lamar County Trojans waited on their own turf like the kings of the mountain, but the Appling County Pirates arrived with the determination and drive to shove them off and give them their first defeat of the season. Granted, the shoving turned out to be rather difficult.
The stadium was packed with more than 3000 fans. Those lucky enough to have seats were reluctant to even go to the bathroom for fear of forfeiting them. Those not so lucky stood lining the fence to watch.
The Trojans scored their first touchdown in the 1st quarter as Pirate fans groaned in dismay. Oh, no! Not already. The Pirates struggled the rest of the half and finally made their first touchdown in the 3rd quarter. From then on, the impetus of the game intensified. Every seated fan perched on the edge of his seat, even those of us glued to the radio. Those on foot were screaming and jumping.
One sportscaster said that the Pirates endured four overtime periods before they were able to put away the Region 4 champions, the Lamar County Trojans. The choice of verbs is excellent to describe the situation; endure is exactly what they did as well as persevere and overcome. They would not give in, had not come to lose that ball game. The fans sensed a bit of magic in the air—Pirate Magic, that is.
The four overtime periods took away the breath of Pirate fans. All this weekend I’ve heard people talking about the rollercoaster ball game. First, the Pirates were at the top and winning; then the car flew down the track and they’d be losing again. Then came the long, steady climb back up to the top, just to repeat the whole process again and again.
When the 4th quarter came, fans stayed put. No one went for a hot dog. Hamburgers sat cooling in the concession stand. No one went for popcorn or coke. Even the bathrooms were empty. Not one soul left to beat the crowd out. Fans could not tear themselves away from the excitement on the field. The band almost forgot to play. Every single person at the game sat entranced. While I can’t speak for other listeners, I can assure you that I never left my radio for one second.
Appling finally put an end to the tension in the fourth overtime period. C.J. Nails scored a touchdown and made the two-point conversion for a 35-27 lead. The Trojans scored soon thereafter, but were unable to make the conversion points. It was over. The Pirates had won.
Now, folks, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no sports writer. If you want the specifics, you can look on the sports page of this paper or check out the official websites. I do, however, recognize a classic game of football when I see—uh, hear one, that is. It’s nearly enough to turn an old lady like me into a sports fan.
Please allow me to say congratulations to Coach Pollock and the Appling County High School Pirates. C.J. did the final scoring, but team effort won the game. May the Pirate Magic and good luck follow you to Calhoun next week. I’ll be listening.