As you know, I went to Greenville this weekend to see the Comets take on Tolono Unity in the Illinois class 3A state semi-finals. The Comets came out on the short end of a 58-53 game which was the best game I've ever seen at the high school level. The level of play on offense was unbelievable, with numerous highlight reel catches and some terrific play from both quarterbacks. Needless to say, the defenses did not have a great day.
Unity took the opening kick-off and marched down the field and scored. They're one of these teams that goes for 2 after every touchdown, so the game was 8-0 before everyone got settled in. The Comets answered with a longer drive, but missed the 2-point try and it was 8-6. The Comets could not stop the Rockets' offense and it was 28-14 with a few minutes left in the half when the Comets got the ball. They drove down but failed to score with time running out. But a defensive holding gave them a chance for a field goal and it was 28-17 at half. Still a game.
Opening the second half, the Comets went three and out, and the wheels fell off. The punt was blocked and run back inside the 10. The Rockets quickly scored. On the next possession, the Comets threw a pick-6 (or in this case 8) and the route was on, 44-17. At that point it looked hopeless. But much to the credit of the Comets and the coaching staff, they never gave up. A long drive for a touchdown was followed by and on-side kick (in the 3rd quarter) that was recovered. The Comets scored again and we had a ball game. Another on-side kick was unsuccessful. I guess the coaches figured the only way to win was to not let Unity have the ball. Unity scored again. In fact, Unity scored a touchdown on its first 8 possessions.
But the Comets answered back (all of a sudden Unity couldn't stop the Comets, either). This time a pooch kick was not successful but Unity fumbled and the Comets recovered and scored. Finally, down twelve, the Comets defense forced Unity to punt. But the punt was downed on the 1 or 2 yard line, and the Comets had to go the length of the field. Which they promptly did in just over 2 minutes. Down five, they tried another pooch kick that Unity recovered. Surprisingly (to me anyway) Unity played it conservatively and went three and out. Here was our chance. The Comets would get the ball back, albeit deep in their own territory with just over a minute to go and down less than a touchdown. Only the clock was the enemy as Unity had not been able to stop the Comet attack in several drives.
Alas, a Comet ran into the punter, only the second penalty all day by the Comets, and Unity was able to run out the clock with a fresh set of downs.
This was an unbelievable game. Both teams played their hearts out and nobody gave up, even when it looked hopeless. I loved that the coach tried everything he could to win, even if he risked being blown out. He showed real faith in his kids and they delivered for him. I would love to have seen if the Comets could have pulled it out. It was disappointing to see them work the entire game for just one stop and one chance to take the lead and just as they were about to get that chance have it taken away. I was proud of the old school.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
4 weeks ago