It may be a cloudy weekend for Science Hill football, but the future is bright and sunny.
The Hilltoppers suffered a second-straight heart-blow, getting kicked from the TSSAA Class 6A playoffs by Oak Ridge on a last-minute touchdown Friday night in the Atomic City.
It came on the heels of a last-minute loss to rival Dobyns-Bennett in the regular season finale a week earlier.
The effect of the D-B loss was dramatic. Instead of a home game against Hardin Valley and top seed, the Hilltoppers were dispatched to Oak Ridge.
It’s possible the D-B hangover played a role in the Wildcats’ end game. Oak Ridge spent most of the final three minutes driving down the field as Science Hill relived a nightmare.
“Not only were we possibly drained emotionally from the D-B game, but also physically,” said Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter. “Oak Ridge has a good football team, so I’m not taking anything away from them. And we fought through the whole thing.”
Oak Ridge converted a fourth-and-four with about a minute left, and eventually turned it into a game-winning touchdown.
A season that started with nine straight wins — and evoked memories of great seasons past — faded into a big heartache.
“I haven’t had time to really reflect on it, but right now it’s disappointing,” said Carter. “Two games, 10 points, in a matter of about two minutes. Both games were just disappointing.”
It comes down to the old “a few plays here or a few plays there” adage. Science Hill could be 11-0 and playing in the second round.
However, Carter said those few plays have to be earned.
“I’ve told people, sometimes it takes years for things to start going your way,” he said. “Sometimes it takes two or three years to get good enough to make those plays.”
There’s plenty of stuff for the Hilltoppers to mull over as the winter closes in, and 2013 starts to appear on the horizon. But from the look of things, it could be an even more special season than 2012.
Yes, Reed Hayes will have moved on and the quarterback position will be open. However, the heir apparent could give the Hilltoppers a chance to not only beat Dobyns-Bennett, but also make the most playoff noise since the early 1990s.
Malik McGue will take over, and Carter predicts plenty of fun.
“It will be different, but it will be fun,” said Carter. “He’s a different animal.”
In fact, it could give Science Hill what D-B had this year when the Indians moved Malik Foreman to quarterback.
“I watched the D-B film, and I was very surprised (McGue) just about broke (Foreman’s) ankles before he made that one catch,” said Carter. “As a sophomore, he was close to (Devaun) Swafford and Foreman.
“I think he will be dynamic when he matures. We will be talking about him like we talk about those two guys. Malik is even smoother with his ballhandling, and he will probably end up being a better thrower than Foreman.”
In the final analysis, a season that appeared to be history in the making may actually have just been a stepping stone. Back-to-back undefeated junior-varsity seasons prove the Hilltoppers have some talent.
In Major League Baseball history, the Brooklyn Dodgers used to cry “Wait ‘til next year” as they tried to beat the New York Yankees. Next year arrived in 1955.
“Next year” for Science Hill could be 2013.