Commentary by Joe Williams: Tonight Im a Cougar
By Joe Williams, Sports Editor
I’ve been in this business so long that I can’t cheer at sporting events; it’s been ingrained not to do that. It kills the wife because she goes nuts over college and pro football. I don’t have favorites because I’m supposed to be unbiased.
Tonight, to heck with that: I’ll be a Cougar. First because Centennial is a county team facing an invader; secondly, and most importantly, because I hate Mount Juliet. I could just as easily be a Bruin, an Eagle, a Rebel, a Raptor or a Spartan, for the same reasons.
After 33 years you’d think I’d be over it. I’m a pretty forgiving guy and I don’t hold grudges. But if you ever played the game of football, you remember exactly the last play of your career. Thanks to the Bears, I never got mine. And I still hate Mount Juliet because of it.
I played on an East High team in Nashville that should have been playing AA ball instead of AAA, but our basketball teams were so good we would have owned the classification. Besides, all our natural and long-time rivals were AAA schools. So on the football field, we were the games where stars with gaudy statistics padded those numbers. We were over matched and bad.
My senior team played six homecoming games in 1980, the last in Mount Juliet, where the Bears waited until the tenth game, on Halloween Night, under a full moon no less, so they could play us. We took 17 players, one on crutches; they dressed 108, including their entire freshman team.
Did I mention we were greeted by the fruitful fragrance of nature from the cow pasture just beyond the northern end zone? A couple of guys had to ask what the smell was.
We were outgunned from the start; returning the second half kick-off 86-yards for a touchdown cut the deficit to 42-6. It had gotten chippy in the line and the teams’ two captains, I and a kid I knew from playing golf against each other in the spring, went to the officials together to ask for help. We were told bluntly: “Gentlemen, if you want to keep playing, shut up and get back in your huddles.”
By the mid –point of the fourth quarter, Mt. Juliet coach Howell Flatt had his freshmen playing, enjoying a 60-6 lead. Unfortunately, his young quarterback decided to throw the ball instead of hand-off as he was told. His intended receiver fell five yards from the cornerback and the ball sailed ten yards over both helmets.
Then the flag fell.
The discussion that followed between officials and the East team captain, and then East head coach Richard Coure, resulted in four more flags, all for unsportsmanlike conduct for questioning the officials. One was deserved, as the term an assistant coach spoke loudly is not printable in a family newspaper.
In another critical error, the officials never explained to Coach Flatt what was happening. In response, Flatt reinserted his starting offense. We never got another snap off as one of our tackles roared across the line on “set”, the Bears retaliated and both benches cleared. I tried to walk away, but got knocked down from behind by Coach Flatt at midfield as he was rushing to stop the melee.
The clock read 6:48 remaining in the fourth quarter when things settled and the officials picked up the football and told us to get on the bus, this game was over.
Late every fall I get this feeling there is unfinished business out there and over the years as I have had cause to cover Mt. Juliet, those seven minutes rush to the forefront of my mind.
I got close to exercising those ghosts many years ago when handling play-by-play for Franklin football for WAKM-AM. In 1991 Coach Danny Nowell was preparing the Rebels for a trip to Mt. Juliet and I was begging him to rack up the points. Sick of hearing the story for the third year he was explaining why I should let it go when the late Fred Lane, Jr., snuck up behind me and said, “We get it, Mr. Joe. Leave it to us.”
Fred scored seven of Franklin’s eleven touchdowns that night, though six of the scores were called back in a 36-0 win.
Maybe I don’t hate Mt. Juliet anymore. But I will be unabashedly pulling for the Cougars tonight.
Posted on: 9/26/2013