Heartbreak 'Cats

It was destined to be a great day.

Kates and I woke up together at 9:30 this morning. We shared breakfast and read together at the table. I started some chores …

Then at 11, I settled in for the big game. My Northwest Bearcats were once again in the Division II National Championship football game, this time against Valdosta State. Northwest came in ranked No. 5, they’re a powerhouse program, and after last weekend’s exciting win against Grand Valley State, I had all the confidence in the world that they could pull it off today …

Especially after the ESPN2 broadcast led with footage from both teams’ pre-game locker room talks. Coach Tjeerdsma told his team during his pep talk that it was their day and only they could control it, nobody else. And if they did everything right, he said, “then you get one of these.” And he pointed to the big championship ring on his finger, from either ‘98 or ‘99 -- I don’t know which one it was, but I do know those were two of the most fun and memorable days of my life, and the ‘Cats did a whole lot of things right on those days …

“Yeah Mel!” I shouted after the talk, clapping my hands loudly and pacing around the room like I was in the Florence, Ala., locker room with ‘em.

I also couldn’t help but notice the Bearcats were stationed on the same sideline they were on when they won the ‘98 and ‘99 games. (I believe they were on the opposite sideline when they lost the title games the last two years.) That has to be a good sign, I thought.

Oh, but it was not mean to be.

Despite an early field goal by Valdosta, Northwest took a lead and held it into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, Valdosta scored to take a 17-14 lead, but Northwest came right back with a touchdown to go back up 20-14 … Only to watch Valdosta block the extra point attempt and run it all the way to the opposite end zone for two points, making the score 20-19, though still in Northwest’s favor …

And finally Valdosta put the ball in the end zone for the winning touchdown with 22 seconds left in the game. Final: 25-20.

Big sigh … Man, my heart was pounding watching the last few minutes of that game. And it’s been this way every year!

Geez, could the broadcasters have rubbed it in anymore that Northwest was on its way to losing its third straight national championship game!? Big deal. Why not recognize the program for making it to three straight title games!?

And could Andre Ware have dropped the fact that he watched Valdosta win its 2004 championship anymore times? C’mon dude, no one cares. You played in the high and mighty Division I. Go cradle your Heisman

The officiating was poor, too. The referees couldn’t make up their minds on some rulings. There was a terribly harsh holding call on Northwest. And there was a terrible ball spot that should have been an easy first down for Northwest, but instead -- luckily for Northwest -- it was ruled a first down by a hair.

Sorry. I’m just a little heartbroken right now.

You know why Northwest didn’t win … I wasn’t wearing my Bearcat stuff. I had forgotten to put it on after I got up this morning … When I realized my mistake midway through the third quarter, I almost raced upstairs to change. I didn’t, though … I should have.

You’ve gotta credit Valdosta. They completely shut down Xavier Omon. And they didn’t give Northwest many chances to get its offense going …


There’s always next year. And I still hold tight to my memories of '98 and '99, as if I haven't mentioned those years enough already ...

And at least I still have the Packers.

And those Kansas Jayhawks basketball games are coming too.

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