The ever-changing wave of momentum would have been a challenge for even Dramamine. But in the end, it was just Pleasant Valley who was sick.
From forced fumbles to broken up passes to even a fake punt from their own 6, the Raiders gave it all they had coming within six points with four minutes to go, only to see their once-unthinkable chance disappear.
When a reporter asked Bison coach Adam Gilbert if he’d ever been involved in a stranger game, the North Sand Mountain coach cut him off in mid-sentence with an quick, “No.”
Then he stammered and stumbled over his words for at least 10 seconds before he just gave up and shook his head.
“You got to take your hat off to them,” he said.
North Sand Mountain scored on its first two possessions with near ease and was going in for its third when the Thunder Herd ran smack into a brick wall.
With first-and-goal from the 9, Pleasant Valley stood firm, denying four straight attempts by Max Kirby.
Then things got crazy.
What followed in the three final quarters was confusing at times, baffling at others. But entertaining — or at least kept the fans on the edge of their seats with anticipation — to say the least.
Despite only gaining 9 yards on three drives and throwing an interception on fourth-and-5 from the 6, Pleasant Valley coach Jeff Davis called for a fake punt. And made it.
“I was just trying to do something to get this team to gel,” he said. “I’d a faked it from the 6-inch line.”
After the fake punt tallied Pleasant Valley’s second first down of the night, its third was called back. After quarterback Lucas Ford turned the corner nearly 10 yards downfield, a whistle blew.
A beanbag was thrown at the line of scrimmage and a whistle blown, signaling the play dead. Instead of the third down conversion it should have been, two plays later the Raiders punted.
Pleasant Valley’s drive stalled, but the message was sent: They weren’t going away.
And they didn’t.
Before Kirby took the pitch and darted around the right end and up the sideline for the 65-yard score, he said all he was thinking was: “Just please get me home to Higdon with a W.”
The senior charted out the distractions of the week — from weather to the atmosphere of a college stadium — but said take none of them as excuses.
“I’m telling everybody right now,” he said pausing for emphasis, “Do not take Pleasant Valley for granted. Don’t do it.”
And don’t take for granted anything can happen — no matter how they start.
When North Sand Mountain had the ball, it was the definition of helter skelter — and it was hard to understand where to put the credit or the blame.
Time and again, the Bison followed big gains with big losses, forcing themselves in second and third-and-long only to work their way out of it with another big play.
When once it didn’t, the Raiders’ offense finally sat down at the table just as the public address announcer publicized half-price hotdogs in the fourth quarter.
Dalton Bean and a 15-yard Bison penalty accounted for the final 39 yards of the drive with Bean going in from 11 yards out.
On the ensuing drive Chris Deerman stripped Brenden Walsh on the first play.
Pleasant Valley fumbled three plays later. Then in the midst of a Bison three-and-out, the ball sailed over the punter’s head.
After gains of 9 and 5 yards, Pleasant Valley fumbled twice, losing the second one, setting up Kirby’s long-scoring run.
With first down and inside a minute to play, North Sand Mountain elected not to run the clock out. Instead, the Bison fumbled, giving the ball back to the Raiders.
After the game was thought to have ended on an interception, the last flag laid on the field. A defensive chop block left one untimed down — which also ended in an interception.
With the hectic quarter over, the two teams assembled at midfield. Davis summed the wild night up the best way he could.
“Boys, this is what Friday nights in Alabama is all about,” he said. “Getting out there and getting after somebody’s tail.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.