I’ve been working in this crazy profession for a little more than 24 years now and in that time I’ve covered many different events at pretty much every conceivable level of sports.
I don’t think I can say I’ve seen it all, but from the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association Championships (yes, it’s an actual event) at Stone Mountain Park back in 1990 (or thereabouts) to last season’s Final Four at the Georgia Dome to the 2010 and 2011 Masters at Augusta National, my experiences have pretty much run the gamut.
That all said, I can honestly say that last Friday’s 21-14 win by Meadowcreek High School’s football team over Habersham Central is one of the events I’ve covered in my career that I’ll cherish most.
Why, you ask? This was more than just a feel-good story, as far as I’m concerned.
By now, everybody knows the numbers fairly well, but they still bear repeating.
The win was the school’s first varsity football win in the last 53 games dating back to Sept. 5, 2008.
On the heels of a previous 43-game losing streak, that means the Mustangs have won just twice over a time period that stretches almost 10 calendar years, for those of you keeping score at home.
And I’ve been privileged to witness both of them.
In fact, Meadowcreek is 2-1 in their games that I’ve covered since I returned to Gwinnett County in 2007. So, maybe I’m some sort of good luck charm.
Superstition aside, the Mustangs’ football program has been due for a little good karma.
Comparing their struggles on the football field over the past decade, and really beyond, to Sisyphus finally pushing the boulder to the top of the mountain or David slaying Goliath might be more than a little over the top.
Think of it more as Charlie Brown finally being able to kick the football without Lucy cruelly and gleefully pulling it away.
True, Meadowcreek hasn’t been totally devoid of athletic success over the years.
The boys basketball program not only made the Class AAAAAA state tournament last year, but even won a game in it, and has enjoyed several postseason appearances, particularly during the Chris Allen years.
The boys soccer team also made state last year, and has been very competitive in recent years, as has the Mustangs’ wrestling team.
Going even further back, the girls basketball program had a strong run of success, including a Class AAAA state runner-up finish in 2002.
Still, compared to a lot of success enjoyed by many of the county’s other schools, Meadowcreek has — rightly or wrongly — been kind of looked upon as Gwinnett’s little brother or sister.
As the youngest of four kids in my family, maybe that’s why I can relate to the Mustangs’ win Friday, even if it did come against an out-of-county opponent.
And as it was five years ago for Meadowcreek’s last previous win — a 24-14 victory over Duluth — the emotions and the looks on each of those kids’ faces were priceless.
They even rivaled those from state championship celebrations I’ve seen in my time, and we’ve seen plenty of them from other schools in many different sports here in Gwinnett County.
It’s not that those kids didn’t invest a lot in their moments of glory. They did.
But consider that those kids at Meadowcreek have invested just as much.
Put yourselves in the shoes of the Mustangs’ seniors, who have invested every fall afternoon after school for the last four years, and then some, with literally no return on that investment — until Friday.
And it wasn’t just the players and coaches who put forth that investment.
While the stands at Meadowcreek Community Stadium weren’t completely full, the school’s student body and community did show up in pretty strong force Friday, as did the school’s administration.
And if there were any moments in which the support in the fans may have seemed waning, public address announcer Dr. Anthony Rainge, who wears many hats at Meadowcreek, did his best to fire the crowd back up.
Just how much was he into the game? He went as far as to paint his face blue for the game — and he was just up in the press box.
“We went all in for this game to make it a special experience,” Meadowcreek athletics director Don Einolf said.
But head coach George Pugh repeated a theme stated by several former Meadowcreek coaches and players in the lead up to the game last week by telling his players after the game that Friday’s win shouldn’t be the end game, but only beginning.
Here’s hoping he’s right, and it doesn’t take the Mustangs five more years to know what it feels like to win again.
David Friedlander is a staff writer for the Daily Post. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.