Morgan County dominated the first seven minutes of Friday night’s game against the East Hall Vikings and it looked like the Bulldogs were on their way to the second round of the state playoffs. The Dogs led 14-0 with 5:54 left in the first quarter after a lightning-like three play 70 yard drive to open the game, a stop of the high powered East Hall offense and a 69 yard, 11 play drive that resulted in another score.
But then Austin Parker and his receiving corps got warmed up.
The state of Georgia’s leading passer (over 350 yards per game) led a furious rally and by halftime had forged ahead 30-21. The Vikings polished off the night with 20 second half points and limited Morgan to 15 to come away with a 50-36 win on a night full of big plays for both squads.
If you liked offense this game was for you. Morgan’s offense put up 525 yards on the night but East Hall posted 566. Both quarterbacks had outstanding games with Morgan County’s Trey Patterson throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns but Viking quarterback Austin Parker one-upped him with 468 yards and six TD passes.
The Bulldogs got out of the gate quickly. Starting at their 30 yard line Rambo Rambus got the crowd stirred up with a 30 yard burst up the middle on the first play from scrimmage. Brandon Smith followed that up with a sweep that covered 15 more yards and on the next snap senior quarterback Trey Patterson found his top receiver senior Anthony Cooper on a deep route for the final 25 yards and just like that Morgan led 7-0 with less than a minute gone off the clock.
East Hall came out firing and drove to the Morgan 31 but a dropped pass in the end zone ended that possession and the Bulldogs took over with their second possession of the night. They marched 69 yards keyed by a 14 yard swing pass to Brandon Smith, A bad day is not when the Bulldogs lose. It’s actually a great day. The boys got to play a wonderful game, enjoy the health of their youth, entertain the fans, and make a lot of people a ton of money. Even in a loss, it’s a day to celebrate. Oh yeah, and Kirby Smart smiles every time he goes to the bank to deposit his check.
There was a day when I didn’t talk like this. Once upon a time, I was a competitor. No, not your normal competitor. I hated losing like I hate needles and Boones’ Farm. My mother would tell me, “Now son, it’s just a game.” That wasn’t true for me. It was life and death. The end of the world. Nothing else mattered. The old saying, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” didn’t apply to me.
This past week I had the opportunity to visit with a close friend of my son, Dillon Lewis. He’s like one of the family and spent countless nights and days at our home eating from our table, playing marathon games of ping-pong, and having a good time. I came to know this young man in his teens when he played for the Morgan County gridiron Bulldogs as well as the Net Dogs’ tennis team along with my son. We had great conversations about coaching, sports, and the Georgia Bulldogs (his favorite). He always addressed me as ‘Coach’ and never spoke without a ‘No sir’, ‘Yes ma’am’, or ‘Thank you.’
Last summer Dillon was struck by a tractor trailer while driving leaving him with multiple injuries and severe brain trauma. He could neither speak nor walk during that visit at the brain trauma therapy unit in McDonough. It broke my heart to see what he and his family are dealing with, but he’s a fighter. His parents are ultra-positive about the progress he has made and his will to get better. On the long ride home I thought about my children, my life in sports, what was really important in life, and how blessed I really am. It made me wonder why I complain about the little things. It helped me put things into perspective. Dillon and his family need our prayers in the worst kind of way.
You see, I’ve seen my share of losses as a player and a coach. Every one of them hurt. Losing a State Championship game at Commerce. Losing a Region Championship on a last-second shot. Losing a game to send us to the Final Four when a buzzer shot didn’t fall. You know what? None of those losses compare to what everyday people, friends, family, and neighbors go through every day. Losing a game simply doesn’t compare. In the long run, how much does it matter?
I’ll cheer on the Dogs as long as I’m able and love to see them win, but I won’t entertain thoughts of slitting my wrists like some people do. Some things are not life and death while others are. You know what Mom? You were right as usual. It really is just a game.