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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

36 inches short of immortality

The almost legendary Spencer Bruntz at Wednesday's practice
With 14 second left in regulation, Lexington set up for a 28 yard chip shot field goal that if successful would derail McCook’s hopes for an undefeated season. Gross called timeout and rallied his kick block defensive unit. “I have a feeling, I have a strong feeling we are going to block this kick,” he told his players. His intuition was dead on. Senior lineman Spencer Bruntz broke through the center of the line to cleanly block the kick and scoop up the resulting loose ball, setting the stage for a play that was both incredible and comical, and would come within one yard of being miraculous.

After the blocked kick, since the ball had not crossed the line of scrimmage, it was live and could be advanced by either team. The ball Buntz was holding was still in play. He stood in the middle of the field, for an instant, unsure of what to do. His teammates were celebrating the block while the Lexington players, heads down, retreated to their sideline to regroup for the overtime session. Bruntz stood alone, holding the live ball!

Coach Gross jumping up and down on the sideline like a man on fire, motioning for Bruntz to run, finally caught the lineman’s attention. “So I thought, alright, I will run with it,” Bruntz said after the game. With an unexpected once in a lifetime opportunity to be a hero dropped in his lap, into the wind, towards the Lexington end zone, he rambled, 80 yards to victory.

Doing his best rendition of “run, Forest, run,” Bruntz ran down the sideline past the Bison bench. Suddenly, he picked up an escort, Coach Gross. Caught up in the moment, adrenaline flowing and perhaps the theme of Chariots of Fire blaring in his head, the coach ran stride for stride with Bruntz. After pacing his would be hero for 40 yards, Gross’ brain finally caught up with his body, announcing “you are 43 years old and not in the best of sprinting shape,” abruptly grounding the coach in mid stride with what was later diagnosed as a hamstring pull.

Alone now, Bruntz still had 40 yards of open field ahead of him and one alert Lexington player, Quarterback Jeremy Callahan, sprinting after him. The Minuteman had an angle on his prey, the lumbering Bison lineman dead in his sights, but the pursuer was still a good 10 yards behind. It was going to be close.
Charitably described by his coach after the game as not the fastest guy on the team, Bruntz began to lose steam 20 yards from the end zone and what would be the most unlikely game winning touchdown in the history of Bison football. “I kept thinking I am almost there, keep going,” Bruntz said after the game. “When I got to the 10, I thought about diving into the end zone, but then I thought, if I don’t make it and land short, everybody will be laughing at me.”

As Callahan closed in for the tackle, Bruntz using his last ounce of energy lunged for the end zone pylon. At that last possible instant, Callahan caught the McCook lineman’s left leg, spinning him off balance and forcing Bruntz out of bounds at the one yard line.

As crazy a play as anyone in the McCook crowd could ever remember witnessing was over. In its’ wake lay a hobbled coach 40 yards up field and an unlikely hero 36 inches short of immortality. Overtime.

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