|Rocky Mount quarterback Michael Hines scrambles for some yardage in Thursday's game against Bertie (Photo/Cal Bryant) - click on photo to enlarge|
It was an exhibition game, played for charity, that pitted the defending Super Bowl champions (the Pittsburgh Steelers, in this case) against the best college football players of the previous season. It had a 42-year history.
It was held at Soldier Field and the last game of the series, as it turned out, was played the summer of 1976 when a downpour to end all downpours halted the game in the third period - a rarity for the NFL.
I watched that game on TV, but I relived it again last Thursday night - at least the rain part.
With Rocky Mount down 22-14 to Bertie with more than half the third quarter left, the Gryphons made the most heroic drive I have ever witnessed in over 40 years of watching them play.
The week before at Bunn, a driving rain didn't put a damper in the Gryphons' opening 80-yard drive. I kinda attributed it to their disgust of having to spend more than hour sitting on a bus waiting for a storm cell to pass by and start the season.
This time at Bertie, if you can imagine, the rain was much harder when RMHS took over the ball at its own 42. In fact, water was sheeting off the glass of the press box while fans scurried for cover.
This was a monsoon - more water than I had ever seen at a prep football game. Before it was over, even the press box was leaking.
But this was of no concern to these Gryphons. They relished in playing in the deluge, while Bertie's players were unsure and certainly unaware of RMHS' resolve in this type situation.
There were no fumbles, no bad snaps - just good old country running up the gut - mostly led by junior Mason Hines. It took 13 plays for the Gryphons to get to the end zone, and eight of them were hand offs to Mason.
He ended the drive with a 10-yard run to pull the Gryphons within two. His brother Michael, the quarterback tied it a 22-all when he somehow fell into the end zone in a mass of wet humanity.
A possession later at its own 20, a lightning bolt appeared and the players were called off the field with 21.7 second left in the period. The Gryphons made a bee-line to their buses.
Most thought there would be a 30-minute delay as prescribed by NCHSAA rules, but this contest wasn't going any further.
The back of the end zones were lakes and the sidelines had turned to rivers. Ponds were forming all over the playing field. There was no way play was going to continue that night.
So the game was ruled a tie - the first time the Gryphons have been involved in a deadlock since 1976 - the year before overtime came to be in N.C. high school football. RMHS came away from Durham with a 26-26 score with Hillside at Durham County Stadium.
Now the Gryphons might be looking for a little rain in every game. As for me, precipitation the day before is enough for me!