Saturday, December 23, 2006

At Number One

Before we reach number one in my Top 20 football games, let’s review…
#21 Greenwich vs. Southington (December 2, 2006)
#20 Greenwich @ Danbury (November 25, 2004)
#19 New Canaan vs. Greenwich (November 17, 2006)
#18 Brunswick vs. Belmont Hill (November 18, 2006)
#17 Nyack vs. Harrison (November 6, 2004)
#16 Greenwich vs. Shelton (December 2, 2000)
#15 Rye vs. Chenango Forks (November 29, 2003)
#14 New Canaan vs. Greenwich (November 22, 2002)
#13 Staples @ Greenwich (October 21, 2000)
#12 Greenwich @ New Canaan (November 7, 2003)
#11 John Jay @ Fox Lane (September 25, 1999)
#10 Greenwich vs. West Haven (December 7, 2002)
#9 New Canaan @ Greenwich (November 9, 2002)
#8 Harrison @ Rye (October 14, 2006)
#7 Brewster vs. Greeley (November 6, 1999)
#6 Greenwich vs. Bridgeport Central (November 19, 2004)
#5 Poly Prep @ Brunswick (October 6, 2006)
#4 Greenwich vs. New Britain (December 4, 2004)
#3 Brunswick vs. Belmont Hill (November 19, 2005)
#2 New Canaan vs. Greenwich (November 17, 2000)

And at number one…

Can you stand the suspense….


#1 – Harrison vs. Chenango Forks (Class B Championship – December 1, 2002 at Syracuse) – The best game, the biggest game of the year, our best broadcast, and an overall achievement for WGCH. All of that helped in my thinking. Most importantly, to repeat, it was the best game. WGCH ventured into New York football for the first time in 2002, beginning with the Rye-Harrison game that year (I didn’t call that one – Sean Kilkelly and Mark Rosen did it because I was with the Cardinals as they played at St. Joe’s that day). As the Huskies advanced into the playoffs, we followed. Initially, our broadcasts were met with some skepticism; especially since Harrison’s football team was embroiled in controversy involving parties and underage drinking and so on. When I first mentioned our broadcasts to a well-placed Harrison official, he asked me why we wanted to cover the team. I said, quite simply “I don’t care if you believe me, but I’m a sports broadcaster. We’re not interested in off the field stuff. We just like broadcasting games.” In fact, the controversy was never broached until after this game, when I briefly talked about it with Husky QB and kicker Peter Kohlasch.

For us, it was one of the most pleasant broadcasting experiences ever. It didn't start that way thought as after Mark and Sean picked me up at home, I felt like the tension in our van was so thick that you couldn’t cut it with a chainsaw. What made things even crazier was the presence of snow, as we got into the Catskills, with us traveling in the WGCH minivan. Not exactly a four-wheel drive vehicle. In fact, I had decided that if the snow had not settled down by the time we reached Binghamton (coming out of the mountains on route 17), then we would call it a night there. Plus I wasn’t driving – not my favorite spot to be.

Binghamton was fine, and I drove us from there to Syracuse, where we checked into a Hampton Inn before heading to dinner so we could watch Southern Cal and Notre Dame on TV at a dive sports bar west of town. We collapsed back in our room and called it a night.

Sunday morning brought a good six to ten inches of snow. I went out and cleaned off the van and went back in for breakfast. By the time I came back out, the van was covered again. Even the ride to the Carrier Dome – just a couple of miles down Interstate 81 – was hectic. Still there we were, walking into the Carrier Dome for the call of the game nice and early. We were then shown to our private booth (with Cable TV) and given our telephone line – all things that you don’t normally get at the high school level.

Look - it's REALLY us!!

Our old, beat up banner.

But we weren’t done. Things were going so well (shocking!) that we were able to go down and throw a football around on the football field, and even shown some of the behind the scenes stuff (like the basketball floor). I had been to the Dome before (for a sportscaster’s camp in 1990) but never for an actual broadcast.

Left to right: Mark Rosen, me, Sean Kilkelly. Sorry, not a great picture.

As we began our broadcast, a great feeling of pride came over me. This was a big moment for us, and you can actually hear my voice choke up just a tad as I went to take our first break in the pregame show. Regardless of the outcome, this game was an honor to be a part of. That the game was as great as it was just added to the day. Tim Batty got the Blue Devils on the board first with a six-yard touchdown catch, but the Huskies answered with a 33-yard Kyle Hannon run. Kohlasch’s extra point was no good, and Forks kept a 7-6 lead. Kelsey Jenks added a touchdown early in the second quarter to open a 14-6 Forks lead, but the Huskies would get it back to 14-12 as Steve Burton ran an interception back 55 yards for a score. Matt Juriga threw his second touchdown of the day right before halftime, this time to Nick Mirabito to extend the Forks lead to 21-12. That would be all the scoring for Chenango Forks, who had lost a tough championship game in 2001 to Peru, 14-7.

In the booth, we were savoring the moment. TV and the scoreboards in the Dome brought us live scoring updates from the NFL (a rarity for us), while we dined on cookies and beverages on press row. Best of all…live game statistics!! Yes, I could get used to that.

In the second half, Kohlasch ran 46 yards for a third-quarter score, and kicked the extra point to cut the deficit to 21-19. That’s how things would stay for a long time. Harrison’s star running back, Rudy Arcara, injured his knee early in the first quarter. Arcara ran for 218 yards in the state semifinal game against Lansingburgh, and that kind of offense is hard to make up. At halftime, Husky coach Art Troilo, Jr put the decision to play again in the senior’s hands. Arcara chose to come back out, and seemed to rejuvenate his teammates, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where he is the play-caller.

The game moved deep into the fourth quarter, with Forks still holding the 21-19 lead. It seemed that the Blue Devils had scored towards the end of the third quarter as Jenks, who ran for 141 yards, went into the end zone. A holding call negated that. Coach Kelsey Green told Kevin Stevens of the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton how displeased he was with that:

"It seemed like every time we got moving, they (the officials) found a way to call a holding penalty on us," Devils coach Kelsey Green said. "It was just amazing to me that (Harrison) didn't hold once."

Indeed a look at the stat sheet does point out that the Devils were hit with seven penalties for sixty yards, while the Huskies were penalized twice for only twenty yards. Ah, you’ve gotta love stats. The stat sheet favored the Devils in virtually every category – time of possession (32:43 to 15:17), rushing, passing, and total offense (337 yards to 211), first downs (19 to 9), and so on. But there’s the small matter of who leads on the scoreboard…

Chenango Forks got the ball back with 10:53 to go and embarked on a 14-play drive that would net only 29 yards, but ate up over seven minutes. Harrison's Jason Collabella broke up a Juriga pass play on third down to force the Devils to punt. The Huskies got the ball on their own 32-yard line with 3:32 to go. In the booth, nobody said a word, but we all knew that we could be seeing a fantastic finish. The Huskies would need eight plays on their final drive, with the first one being a 22-yard run by the ailing Arcara, who would gain 42 yards in the game. Still there would be some more drama. Three plays after the Arcara scamper, the Huskies had a fourth and five at the Forks 41 with 1:28 to play. Coach Troilo, on a call from his assistants upstairs, chose to hand off to fullback Steve Burton, who had scored a defensive touchdown but hadn’t touched the ball on offense. It worked, as Burton ran 11 yards for a first down off left tackle. Kohlasch, now nursing an injured leg of his own, rifled a 16-yard completion to Burton on the next play to set the Huskies up with a first down at the Devils 14. Arcara would gain a yard on first down, and as the clock ran down, we began to go nuts in the booth. It didn’t appear that the Huskies were in control of the clock, even though they had a time out to burn. I didn’t think they would run a play, but Kohlasch tried an option for no gain. The Huskies used their final time out with :02 on the clock. The Blue Devils used two time outs in an attempt to ice Kohlasch. Again, the Husky kicker was now playing with an injured leg – not the ideal injury for a place-kicker. Still the time outs gave him a chance to regain his composure. Advantage - Harrison.

So how did it turn out? Listen to the audio highlight.

Incidentally, I don’t love the call. It’s probably the biggest play-by-play call I’ve ever done, and I thought I went overboard. Most people tell me that they loved it, but I wish I had let the moment play itself out a little better.

The postgame would go by in a blur. I interviewed a few players, including Kohlasch, and we wrapped things up and left the Dome. Now, it was on to facing the tough central New York winter. The day had turned bitterly cold, and there was still all the snow on the ground on the final day of the Thanksgiving weekend. I decided to not go back home on the mountainous route via Binghamton, opting for the flatter terrain of the New York State Thruway. The ride from Syracuse to Albany was slow – with bumper-to-bumper traffic and a windshield wiper reservoir that didn’t work on the van, leaving me with a blurred view of the road, at best.

After a few hours of that craziness, we finally hit some open road, and stopped for dinner in Albany (yes, we went to Hooters…whatever). Whatever tension had long-drifted away (sometime on Saturday night), and the three friends enjoyed our food, and a nice ride back to Mahopac, talking about music, sports, life, and whatever else came up.

After everything was done, I was told to go look at the high school football discussion board. Sure enough, there were reviews of our play-by-play, and they were glowing, with some asking if we could call every state championship game in the future. Just tell me where you want us, and I’d love to do it! It was rewarding to see that people listened to us, not just on the radio, but also all over the net. Perhaps the nicest reward came a few days later when WGCH (led by Peter Mutino and Don Russell) decided to rerun the entire broadcast. On our old talk show, "The Press Box", people were calling us from as far as Arkansas and Binghamton to thank us for covering the game so fairly. Can't ask for much more.

Well there you have it. I’m Casey Kasem. Keep your feet on the ground, and tell me what happened to the pictures I was supposed to see. Ponderous, man, f’ing ponderous.

If you’ve never heard the infamous Casey Kasem open-microphone meltdown, then that last sentence will mean nothing to you.

1 comment:

petekohlasch said...

Hey man, a friend of mine just sent this website over to me today and I love it. I guess in large part because I'm Pete (Kohlasch). I'm glad you enjoyed the game so much and I'm happy we were able to put on a show.