In the 2004 Disney film “Miracle,” Kurt Russell, portraying U.S. men’s hockey coach Herb Brooks, spoke the words “Great moments are born from great opportunity” to his team of amateurs before playing the Soviet Union in the semi-finals of the 1980 Olympic games – a game the U.S. team won, 4-3.
While the magnitude of Lake Placid on Feb. 22, 1980 compared to Nov. 26 at Tom Brown Stadium are slightly different, Washington Township’s junior class still turned Russell’s words into reality when they erased a 12-point deficit in the waning minutes of the annual Powder Puff football game.
Picture this, it’s 6 p.m. on a brisk, fall evening. There’s a slight chill in the air, but the night sky is clear. Though it was relatively dark by the time kickoff came, the lights were bright on Tom Brown Field. It was the textbook definition of football weather.
The parking lots were at capacity. Those who showed up 10 minutes early could miss opening kickoff due to driving around the Washington Township High School campus a handful of times to find a parking spot. Once granted admission, one would be hard pressed to find a seat as both the home and visiting stands were full to the brim, leaving nothing but standing room for friends, family and loved ones to see this traditional game play out. Rumblings arose from the crowd to the tune of commenting on the state of the stadium.
“This is the most packed I’ve seen it,” an anonymous fan commented.
The junior class received the opening kickoff and made quick work to take an eight-point lead. The senior class responded on their next drive to tie the score. The senior team in its entirety stormed the field to celebrate as if they’d won the Super Bowl.
The juniors scored again on the ensuing drive, then the seniors again. By halftime the seniors held a six-point lead, 22-16, which included a goal-line stand to hold the lead at the midway point.
The two teams consisting of more than 100 girls put their differences aside for the halftime show, where the junior and senior boys put together a dance routine to today’s rap music mixed with some classics. The cheer squads performed stunts, did flips and rolls and, to be frank, if there were a roof over the stadium, they would have blown it off.
After both grades had a chance to dance, play resumed. Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, the senior girls scored on the kickoff to take a commanding 28-16 lead.
The juniors took the seniors best shot on the chin and but didn’t quit, just like Rocky Balboa in the original movie. The underclassmen mustered a drive of their own to cut the lead to four points. The seniors deflated the juniors by scoring again to make it a 34-24 game with under 8 minutes to go. The juniors had more than 75 yards to pay dirt.
And with this we’re reminded of the Kurt Russell-Herb Brooks quote, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”
A junior running back broke through for a 50-yard gain, giving her team momentum and fantastic field position. A touchdown was scored to cut the senior lead to two with 2:15 left in regulation.
Though the seniors had possession of the ball with time on their side, the junior class’ defense transformed into the 1985 Chicago Bears, arguably the best defense in NFL history, used their timeouts effectively, forced a three-and-out and took over with plenty of time on the clock and great field position.
Seconds later, what would become the game winning touchdown was scored on a sweep to the left. The juniors, who had their first lead in more than 40 minutes of game time, kicked off to the seniors and pinned them in their own territory.
With under two minutes, could the senior class pull off a miracle of their own? The answer, unfortunately, was no. The junior class defense clamped down and held the senior class at bay to secure their first Powder Puff victory in close to a decade, per teachers on the sidelines.
Though it was the junior class in their blue jerseys that will remember the night for the dramatic, come-from-behind victory, both teams will be able to look back on this event and smile. The Powder Puff game is done in good fun and is a longstanding tradition at Washington Township High School. With close to 200 people per sideline, 400 in total, a good portion of each grade participates.
While the seniors’ wounds are still fresh from the loss, it is important to note the outcome of the game is not what matters. What matters most is quality time spent with classmates. Senior year of high school flies by. Before they know it, they’ll be moving their tassel from right to left and planning their final summer before college. There’s plenty of memories to be made in the 2019-2020 school year. This is just the beginning.