Jackson Prince, staff writer
There were nine minutes and 56 seconds left in the fourth quarter. A three-minute drive by the San Marino Titans resulted in merely a field goal, thanks to an exhausted but now aggressive Norman defense. The Titans kick the ball to the Normans and the band began to play the intro of of Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead”.
After two plays that yielded unimpressive yardage, Coach Charlie Stansbury called for a streak play, in which quarterback Zack Bialobos planned to find his favorite target, wide reciever Eli Sachs.
Bialobos had attempted the play twice in the game already.
“The first time, I threw the ball too close to his body, and the pass tipped off his hands. The second time, there was a miscommunication [resulting in another incompletion]. I told myself that we were going to get it right this time,” he said.
Bialobos found his man 30 yards deep in the middle of the Titans’ secondary. Sachs caught the ball and took off, running another 35 yards without a hitch, until he reached the 10-yard line. There, only 30 feet from the end zone, Sachs lost his footing and stumbled, fumbling the ball. However, the Normans retained possession and avoided disaster.
With the clock ticking and the fans begging for a score, Stansbury called for a run, hoping to shove the ball through the San Marino defense for a quick six points. But Bialobos took the game into his own hands, and instead chose to honor Sachs’ hard work.
“There was no way Eli wasn’t getting this touchdown. I called a screen pass, designed to be thrown his way,” Bialobos said.
And, as designed, Sachs caught the screen and trotted into the end zone, notching the first varsity football touchdown of his career. The crowd roared, the cheerleaders danced, the band rumbled and the sidelines shook.
After his touchdown, Sachs was “speechless.”
It was a glorious fourth quarter for the Normans, who played well on both sides of the ball. By a 6-3 score, they won the period from the Titans, a squad who last week beat the Nogales Nobles 70-0.
But football is a tale of four quarters, not one. During the first 36 minutes of the game, the Normans dug themselves in a deep hole, as they trailed San Marino 61-0 at the end of the third quarter. The Titans kept the scorekeeper busy, putting up scores with a punishing read-option ground attack. The Norman offense wasn’t able to put points on the board until the fourth quarter.
When watching a blowout, fans in the stands might lose interest in the play on the field. A Beverly home game offers plenty of distractions, including grilled food, ungrilled friends, always-peppy cheerleaders, the exuberant band and even announcer Coach Leonard Mitchell’s reminders to buy some Norman swag. But, for a reporter on the field, the game is fascinating no matter what the score. For this person, there is a unique experience: the sounds of helmet-to-ribcage tackles, the uninhibited view of the giants who always seem to play for the opposing team and, most of all, the camaraderie and spirit of the Norman players and coaches which remains seemingly unaffected by even the most depressing scoreboard.
For example, Bialobos ran off the field after a second-quarter failed drive, smiling at this reporter.
“I can’t help it. I love football,” Bialobos explained.
There were moments of tension, such as when a coach pulled aside a player who missed a blocking assignment. Though only 10 feet away, their conversation was almost inaudible, as the coach sought to give his player the dignity of a private reprimand.
After the game, a reflective Stansbury saw some reasons for hope in what seemed to be a dismal performance.
“We have young guys playing hard, and every play is a learning experience for everybody,” he said.
Having learned a harshly taught lesson, the 0-4 Normans next take on South Pasadena at their high school on Oct. 4.