It’s still vivid in my mind this morning. The glitter of a large arena. A throng of fans, more rowdy than usual because they’re small-town folks come to the city, and their hopes are up because they are anticipating another big victory and a nice meal at some restaurant Clinton doesn’t have.
Twenty-one and four. The Red Devils finished 21-4. They made it to the Class 3A upstate finals, which remains the furthest they have ever been. When first they laid eyes on the Southside Tigers, it was, Wait a minute. Is this a PC game? Nope, nope, here come the Red Devils. That must be a high school team.
They should have waited for Dorman-Gaffney. They’d have thought they stumbled into the Pac-12.
Southside (26-1) won, 71-43. Inside, the Tigers were both tall and thick. Clinton was lanky and slender. The Red Devils’ All-State forward, Jalen Carter, had a first half like a boxer’s first round. Twice he crashed to the Bon Secours (Ironically Titled) Wellness Arena floor, only to be partially revived by the trainers. When the game was long over, I was at the end of a hall, underneath the stands, watching Carter limp to the bus, ice bags wrapped around his knee.
Hoosiers doesn’t happen every year.
The game was sunset at the end of a glorious day. Southside’s Tigers loped off gracefully into the distance, disappearing with the sun over a boys’ basketball season’s far horizon.
The Red Devils, under first-year head coach Eddie Romines, were a splendid engine of improbable cohesion that finally threw a rod after a Ferrari pulled up at a red light.
During the glorious 14-game win streak that encompassed the year to date up until Saturday, it was not uncommon for the Red Devils, with their boundless enthusiasm and clever risk-taking, to face second-half deficits. This time, though, it wasn’t manageable. Southside led by 20 points at the end of three quarters.
It wasn’t particularly painful. They didn’t lose on a three-pointer at the buzzer. Southside let them down easy. They got figurative shots of novocaine. They trudged out to the bus, even those who weren’t limping, and rode on back down the road to reality.
This is pure speculation, but they might have felt like General Custer if he had lived.
It took me a while. I sat out on press row, typing a story and editing photos as the Wade Hampton and Dorman girls cavorted earnestly about. When the former put the latter to bed in Class 5A, I did the same with my day’s work. I watched half of Dorman’s victory in the boys’ game after my laptop decided it was an appropriate time to download 238 Microsoft updates before it would cut off.
Getting that laptop to shut down was not unlike the way the Red Devils’ season ended. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.
If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).