Sometimes life not fair
For 47 minutes and a whole lot of change, the hard work that the Monessen Greyhounds put in for their WPIAL Class A quarterfinal game with Neshannock seemed to be paying off.
All week, Monessen coaches put in a new offense and tweaked the defense in an effort to slow down a Lancer team that was averaging 41 points per game.
The Greyhounds put away their spread offense and put quarterback Chavas Rawlins under center for the first time in his career in a power-I.
On defense, they pressed and challenged Neshannock's four wide receivers in the spread formation playing man coverage all over the field.
And it was working.
At halftime, Monessen led 7-3. Late in the third quarter, the Greyhounds were up 14-3.
And even after Neshannock rallied with two quick touchdowns to take a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter, the Greyhounds stuck with the plan. Instead of chucking the ball down the field on their last drive, they kept pounding away like Greyhound teams of old.
For the game, the Greyhounds racked up 46 rushing plays for 222 yards.
The result on their final drive was a 20-yard touchdown pass from Rawlins to Clintell Gillaspie on a fourth-and-five to give Monessen a 21-17 lead with 2:36 to play in the game.
The Greyhounds played that same defense on Neshannock's last drive and when the Lancers faced a fourth-and-10 from the Monessen 20 with 16 seconds to go, it looked like all those changes were going to provide a big win.
But the Lancers hit a 19-yard pass to the Monessen 1, and on the next play, quarterback Ernie Burkes scored with four ticks on the clock and suddenly it was over.
Just like that.
Usually, when you bust your butt and sell out completely you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
But sometimes life isn't fair.
And after the game, Pacak was left to talk to a group of players, several of whom openly wept and some who were just inconsolable.
“It's a tough way to lose,” Pacak said quietly. “One of the toughest, really. I can't say enough for my kids who left it all out on the field.
“We started the season way back in August with a lot more bodies, but our numbers dwindled pretty good and we had to use a lot of young kids and still my guys battled. That alone is enough to make you proud. These guys are winners to me.”
After the final gun sounded, there were no Greyhounds who felt like winners.
The tears and looks of agony and despair on their faces were proof of that.
However, there were many Monessen players who played like winners.
Clintell Gillaspie. Chavas Rawlins. Justice Rawlins. Javon Brown. Jonathan Kravets. Shyheim Windom. Pete Tarka.
And there were more.
“Man, I just wish I could have given a little more sweat and blood out there,” Chavas Rawlins said softly. “We all felt we were gonna win. We never once thought we would lose. It hurts. I just wish I could have done more.”
In most cases, what Rawlins did — what his teammates did — would have been more than enough to win the game.
You change pretty much what you did all season in one week and run the game plan just about to perfection.
Yet you lose on virtually the last play of the game.
Like I said earlier, sometimes life isn't fair.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.