Where do you start? Literally.
Teams just don’t do 180s like we saw Arab do on Friday night. As I left the press box at halftime, I was sure I was going to lead this column talking about the Arab band’s halftime performance.
It was electrifying. And it ended with Freebird. I nearly cried. Ty Parker is a genius. The band members – all of them – have come together to make some-thing special.
Whatever you were planning to do this Friday night, change your plans. Drive the 20 or so miles down to Brewer and pay the $7 or $8 and watch this band perform. Our friendly neighbors will appreciate it and you will, too (Brewer’s band is pretty special, also, so it’s a win-win).
I’m late to the party on this, but this Arab halftime show is every bit as good as it’s been hyped. And it ends with Freebird. What more could you ask?
And by the way, chances are you’ll also see a pretty good football game. Brewer is 1-0 and has been trending upward since Geoff Walters took over five years ago. Last season, the Patriots made it to the playoffs. They’re good.
Arab has been trending upward since Lee Ozmint walked on the water – I mean the Arab campus – early this year. If what you saw Friday night doesn’t convince you something special is happening here, nothing will.
Actually, after I left the press box and got blown to my knees by the Arab band (did I mention those crazy kids were awesome?), things actually got worse before they got better. Just 111 seconds into the second half, West Point’s brilliant quarterback, Will Cochran, calmly allowed the Arab defense to self-destruct one more time and found an open receiver, Whitt Laney, for an easy 45-yard TD pass to stretch the Warriors’ 28-14 halftime lead to 21 points.
Just as an aside, it was at this point that Ozmint – that maker of young men – pulled aside one of his freshmen defenders, forced into action early because of injuries, and hugged him, while also giving him some instruction and moral support.
“You ought to write about that,” said Arab’s trainter, Sammi Kirkland, who saw what I saw. And she was correct. I was already looking for positives to write about and that seemed like a good one at the moment.
Lord, help me, I just didn’t know.
Over the next hour or so, I watched in sheer amazement as those young Arab men – who have sweated like crazy the last six months for just a chance to make something special happen – actually made something special happen.
Mathew Turnage, 16-yard TD run…special. Ross Reynolds, 1-yard TD run…special (not to mention all the other big and little runs he made as he ran for 164 yards and passed for another, get this, 163).
Reynolds scored on a 14-yard run just 12 seconds into the third quarter, and amazingly, the Knights and Warriors were tied 35-35.
Did I mention that Colin Stewart kicked seven extra points Friday night after kicking four last week in the win against Boaz?
I mention it now because the kid hasn’t missed an extra point in this lifetime, at least that I can remember.
But Arab was just getting started as the Warriors were wilting. Turnage gave Arab the lead with a 2-yard scoring run with 9:28 to go.
Then, after several stirring stops on defense and the kicking game, Arab put the game away with a Christian Eaton 4-yard scoring run with 2:29 to play. Eaton, named the defensive player of the game by Arab’s coaches, was in the game on offense because Turnage got banged up after gaining the last of his 176 yards rushing.
Arab stopped the Warriors again and was knocking on the door but by then, the outcome was decided and the Knights took a knee.
Perhaps the most amazing sight of all the amazing things I saw was that Arab players knew they were going to win by the end of the third quarter. They knew it. They could see it happening. West Point was gassed. They weren’t.
“That’s why we ran all those gassers in 90-degree heat this summer,” a smiling Ozmint said afterward. “They didn’t like me then, but they like me now.”
They sure did. And so did a lot of people.
Ozmint had family, including brother Jon from South Carolina, on the field for a long time afterward. The band played on, and why not? It was the first winning night at the new stadium. The spirit club rushed the field to celebrate with the players and coaches. Parents, fans and students stood and watched from the stands.
It was a happy, happy night.
For everyone wearing blue, that is.