97 Yards In 13 Seconds

If someone had told me my Lower year that I would score a touchdown in my last Andover/Exeter football game, I would not have believed them. I always thought touchdowns were reserved for the offensive superstars, and I always considered myself a defensive player. I would always show up and do my job; I never dreamed of scoring. But regardless of my preconceived expectations, I knew I would never hesitate if I had the opportunity. As I approached this upcoming Andover/Exeter, I prepared for something special. I had a feeling that this year’s game would be one to remember. Ever since I entered Andover as a Lower, A/E weekend has been the best part of the year. I’m a huge proponent of school spirit, and nothing brings the school together better than the timeless rivalry with Exeter athletics. The weekend is even more special for me because I’ve been a member of the Varsity Football team for the past three years. There’s nothing quite like seeing and hearing thousands of screaming fans throughout the game. It’s both exciting and nerve-wracking—knowing you have the spirit of the entire Andover community on your shoulders. To top things off, I was also a Co-Captain of the football team during my third Andover/Exeter contest, adding to the tremendous responsibility I already carried. As the game approached and the fans started filing into the stands, the tension started to build. As Coach Mo gave us his pre-game speech, I could hear the banging of the makeshift drums wielded by several blue-painted Superfans. As the drum tempo sped up, my heartbeat followed pace—escalating in frequency with each passing moment. My overflowing adrenaline started to dictate my actions. I couldn’t sit still; my body was constantly in motion. Coach Mo’s speech reached its climax, and it seemed as though the combined effect of his words and the pounding drums had the same effect on my entire team. Every player was jumping and shouting as we filed out onto the field. We were ready. Every-thing from the entrance to the field to the end of the National Anthem can best be described as a haze. I was there, reacting to things around me, but my mind was focused solely on the game which was less than five minutes away. I was five minutes away from the two most important hours of my life. Still riding my adrenaline high, I could not stand still. I don’t know if nervousness, anticipation, or excitement was the cause, but regardless I was jumping and moving throughout the entire National Anthem. When the singers finally finish what seemed as the longest national anthem in the history of sports, I finally get a chance to step on the field. Adrenaline still running high, I look over at my fellow return man, Ryan McCarthy ’08, to give the usual pre-kickoff nod. I yell to him over the screaming fans, “You know what we have to do.” I wait for the Exeter players to get into position so this game can finally start, hoping that the ball comes my way. I see the Exeter kicker yell something to all of his players as they all begin to run forward. I can hear the chants from both schools as the kicker finally makes contact with the ball. The game has finally begun. It’s a strong kick, and I start to back up while the ball starts to take the perfect path to the right side of the field. I say perfect because the coach called a return to the right and that the right side was my side of the field. As the ball starts to get closer, I had to back up to around the goal line. I had never seen a kickoff as high or as strong as the one I was about to field all season. The ball lands in my hands without much trouble. “Perfect,” I thought, “The easy part is over.” As I started to advance the ball up the field, time seemed to slow down. I was able to scan the field, searching for my blockers and the open field. I’m at the 20-yard line now, and running full speed. I see a great block from Mike Ciummei ’08 and I run off his back. I see another teammate, Corbin Tognoni ’08, lay a huge block, and I continue to run untouched. It was not until that last block until I started to realize that I might be able to take this one all the way. I’m at the 40 now, running at full speed. I see nothing but daylight and a clear path to the end zone. My teammates did their job in creating an open lane and it was now my turn to carry out my share of the load. I don’t think I had ever run that fast before, but it’s easy to overstep limits when 2000 people are chanting your name. As I reach the 50, I hear an explosion from the Andover audience. I know they see what I see: a possible touchdown. I’m still running, refusing to slow down. I knew that I couldn’t get caught, everyone depended on me. My teammates on the field blocking, the fans in the stands cheering, and the alums on computers watching all depended on me to finish the job. I’m in the end zone now, and all I can do is yell. Usually I would be tired after sprinting over 90 yards, but my adrenaline zapped away any fatigue. I’m so excited that I feel as if I could run another hundred yards if I needed to. My teammates make their way to the endzone to join in the celebration. We all hug each other and jog off to the sideline, ready for the rest of the game. I leave the field and I see that the entire crowd is on its feet, yelling and screaming. I take a mental snapshot of the image and remind myself to never forget this feeling. I already knew that this was the best day of my life, and it was only 13 seconds into the ball game.