Padecky: Game played out like it came from Hollywood script

BY BOB PADECKY
PRESS DEMOCRAT SPORTS COLUMNIST

WINDSOR — Friday night it was a kick in the gut for Healdsburg, and it was angels lifting Windsor skyward. It was what it always should be, the rivalry coming down to the last second, coming down to the last play. But, know this, this Grape Bowl quite likely will never, ever, see its equal. Ever. They don’t make games like this, unless it’s on a movie set in Hollywood.

Windsor quarterback Christian McAlvain threw the winning touchdown Friday night. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD)

The ball leaves Christian McAlvain’s hands. There’s 2.3 seconds left in the game. Windsor is on Healdsburg’s 15-yard line. Healdsburg is leading, 20-16. There is no doubt where the ball is going. It’s going to the end zone. To someone. Kameron Richardson, a Windsor wide receiver, is streaking for the end zone. The pass play was called for him, Windsor coach Dustin Davis having that much faith in him … because on the play before …

“Christian threw a perfect pass and it bounced right off my chest,” Richardson said.

So, yes, Richardson said, he wanted another shot at it. He wanted redemption.

“The defensive back was at a disadvantage,” said Richardson, 6-foot-5, referring to being taller than his defender. “I leapt over him to get the ball.”

And the gun went off, game over, the stampede was on. The Windsor folks, adults and kids alike, rush the field. The Grape Bowl is lifted by seemingly every Windsor player except Richardson. All of a sudden the guys realize, Where’s Kameron? They find him. They put down the Grape Bowl trophy. They replace it with Kameron on their shoulders. They carry him for 15 yards. They stop. Time to hug some more folks.

“I had to have that ball,” Richardson said. “I wanted that ball. Football memory? This is it. This is the top.”

Richardson will have to share his memory because at one point in the game, it looked like every Windsor player was living the dream. The Jaguars went up, 16-0, with 2:35 left in the half. It was going to be a walkover. Healdsburg was 6-1, but the Greyhounds were getting handled. Easily. At that point in the game, Windsor had 202 yards of total offense, Healdsburg just 48. But as they are so proud to say in Healdsburg, a Tom Kirkpatrick team doesn’t lie down, give up, surrender.

In the last 58.3 seconds of the first half, Healdsburg scored twice. The game was 16-13. Now it was Windsor back on its heels. The second half became Healdsburg’s. The Greyhounds went up riding the 150-pound body of Carson Seanor. Seanor scored with 1:43 left in the third quarter. It’s 20-16. Healdsburg had the momentum, and it seemed a lock, especially when the Greyhounds blocked a 41-yard Lee Aranda field goal with 5:37 left in the game. Healdsburg was playing so well then it seemed that Windsor would need two field goals to win it.

And then came the play that will make Kirkpatrick’s stomach churn and churn, a play call he’ll never forget. With 48 seconds left in the game and having a third and 19 on Healdsburg’s 47, Kirkpatrick called for his quarterback, Max Opperman, to run a bootleg.

“I should have just called a simple play into the game, punt the ball deep and let them have the whole field to move the ball with less than 50 seconds left,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was a stupid play. It was all my fault.”

Opperman was hit by Windsor defensive lineman Austin Boettger and lost the ball. Windsor got it back on Healdsburg’s 29 with 48 seconds left. Three incompletions and two passes of seven yards each brought the ball to the 15 and Richardson’s moment. When he caught the ball, there was a pause. The eyes were unbelieving. Healdsburg had gained the upper hand.

That blocked field goal seemed to have sealed the deal. Then that … and then this …

“You guys about gave me a heart attack tonight,” Davis told his team after the game.

The players, gathered in a circle, laughed. And then a voice brought through the laughter and all the people who were screaming around them.

“I love you, Kameron!” yelled one of his teammates.

For more North Bay sports, go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blog.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.