The majority, if not all, high schools have a rival. Each sport for a school may have a different team they want to focus on beating, but in general, there is one school every year that gets circled on the schedule. For John Paul, this school is Bishop Ireton. Every year, the two schools compete in many sports, but the most attention is generally given to the meeting of Ireton and John Paul on the football field.
Unlike years past, this season the Wolves had a heightened intensity on defeating their biggest rival. A victory would not just solidify bragging rights over the next year until their next game, but it could also give the Wolves a berth in the VISAA State Playoffs.
The Cardinals of Ireton entered the matchup with a sub-.500 record, and was simply seeking a win for the mentioned bragging rights.
Interest across the school community grew rapidly as the importance of the game began to become apparent to more and more people, and it was soon obvious that Ireton would have their hands full; both from the football team and the travelling hypesquad the team brought with them.
The game started off at an incredible pace. With a single run, Zak Peroots had the Wolves inside the red zone on one of the game’s first plays. Less than 3 minutes in, Michael Horan rushed for a 14 yard touchdown to put the Wolves up 7-0.
Ireton returned the subsequent kickoff inside the Wolves 30 yard line, and threw a 25 yard passing touchdown on the next play to knot the game at 7. From the looks of things, it appeared the crowd was in for a high paced, high scoring matchup.
Such was not the case however, as both teams began to settle into a groove. The two sides struggled back and forth to no avail for the rest of the first quarter and much of the second quarter. In the second quarter, Austin Zicht intercepted an Ireton pass, giving the Wolves the spark they needed. However, Brandon Peroots threw an interception with 4:29 left in the second quarter, and this proved to be the spark Ireton needed. With 3:04 remaining in the first half, they capitalized on the Wolves’ turnover, making it 14-7 and taking this same lead into the halftime break.
Ireton received the kickoff to start the second half, and immediately began driving their way downfield. They took a 21-7 lead over the Wolves on a two yard run at the 8:18 mark of the third quarter.
A frightening moment occurred less than 2 minutes later, when an Ireton player broke his Tibia. The game was delayed around a half hour as paramedics were called to the scene and he was taken off on a stretcher. This allowed the Wolves to stand back, catch their breath, and get ready for the final push in an attempt to win the game. Before the players returned to the field, the Wolves and Cardinals made two lines out of respect to the injured player, and the stretcher was rolled between the lines. It was a true display of sportsmanship from both teams.
Once play resumed, it seemed that momentum may have slightly shifted in favor of the Wolves. Zak Peroots scored with 2:33 remaining in the third quarter to cut the Cardinal’s lead to 21-14.
Right away in the 4th quarter, Ireton went back up by 14, making the score 28-14 and leaving the Wolves with a mountain to climb over the next 11 minutes. However, it was by no means at all an insurmountable task.
The crowd began to feel the tension rising as the clock neared 4 minutes. It was apparent the Wolves needed to score on their current possession, and that they did. With 2 minutes and 18 seconds remaining, the battle tightened as Ireton’s lead was cut to 7. The Wolves needed to force a subsequent three and out in order to have a chance to tie the game. This also, the Wolves did.
All eyes were focused on the field and it felt as though the tension in the crowd could be cut like a string. Stomachs were nervous and the suspense was at its height as the Wolves took over possession with 1:19 remaining in the game. They needed to march over 60 yards to force overtime.
While the Wolves had momentum and it looked like the game was working in their favor, a victory was not in the cards for the Wolves on Saturday.
Senior Nick Davis shared his thoughts about the game, “We all went out and played a good game against a tough team. We had a couple tough breaks, but we played with a lot of heart and I’m really proud of the team.”
They could not muster a first down on their final drive, and their playoff hopes ended along with the game. Ireton took over on downs and simply knelt down, letting the clock run out on the Wolves magnificent season.
Season Still an Overwhelming Success Despite No Playoffs
One extremely important fact however should not be lost in all of this: the amazing season the Wolves put together to even enter into the discussion about playoffs.
When the Wolves started 0-2, many were concerned the team would continue its losing streak and finish the season with a mediocre record at best. However, the team found a source of motivation in other’s doubts, and fought to prove people wrong. They rattled off win after win after amazing win, and most importantly, gave the school a sense of pride in their football team. Students, especially the team’s die-hard hypesquad, could not wait for the games to see their Wolves defeat another opponent.
Even though it is brutal for the players, especially the seniors in their last game, to end on a note like Ireton, what they accomplished as a team all season should stay in the hearts and minds of everyone. They bonded together as a family, fought through adversity, and provided their fanbase with the assurance that spending their Saturday at a John Paul football game would not be in vain. What your 2013 Wolves did was make a statement: that even though they may not be competing for a state championship, the team is here to stay. Thank you, football team, for the sense of pride you established in school and for the amazing start to the school year you provided to the John Paul community. We can’t wait for the opportunity to see our Wolves battling out there on the field next season.