La PORTE — One play. Just one “bleeping” play, to paraphrase the quotes a Michigan City assistant coach or two.
But it’s not the play you’re thinking of.
Sure, that 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nolan Lorenz to tight end Mark Haines with zeroes on the clock gave host La Porte a 58-56 victory over Michigan City in non-stop, back-and-forth shootout rivalry game for the ages on Friday night at Kiwanis Field.
In fact, in the midst of head coach Phil Mason’s disappointment, frustration, anger and despondency, he had to throw kudos toward the Slicers for that final play.
“(Haines) made a great play,” he said. “He’s 6-foot-8 and he jumped up to get that ball.”
But that’s not the play that will haunt the Wolves for at least a week as their Duneland Conference title hopes disappeared with the toss of a little yellow flag with 1.7 seconds left in the contest.
On the play before, a third down from City’s 40 yard line that started with 8.6 seconds on the clock, a Lorenz pass down the far sideline was short of the endzone, and fell incomplete.
It looked like fourth down and that 1.7 on the clock. Instead, a referee called pass interference on the Wolves.
“Unbelievable!” Mason yelled as he thought back just minutes after his post-game huddle with a bunch of angry players.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable,” he repeated.
Those four ‘unbelievable’ exclamations were about one third as many as he actually said altogether during post-game conversations.
“This was one of the greatest (games) I’ve been part of,” he continued. “We gave up a track meet in the first half, but our guys fought back and played their hearts out. To have a phantom pass interference call determine this … you gotta be kidding me! Unbelievable.”
He then paused, and apologized MCHS principal Candy Van Buskirk with "I'm sorry," then looked at athletic director Craig Shaman — who still looked like someone either punched him in the gut or ran over his dog — and said, “Am I fired Craig?”
Of course you’re not fired Phil. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, a lesser man — namely, someone like me — might have gone berserk and probably would have been meeting with the Indiana High School Athletic Association on Monday after doing something quite regrettable.
Mason showed restraint, but understood a memorable game for 47 minutes and 58.3 seconds is going to be replaced in the memory banks of City faithful with that yellow cloth being thrown on the ground.
“It was a fantastic football game … fantastic!," he said. "Why would you call that penalty. Let the kids play. It was six guys going up for a jump ball. Let the kids play.”
After the game and carrying over to Saturday morning, fans, coaches and players should have been focused on La Porte scoring three touchdowns and three two-point conversions in the span of 5:36 of game time between the second and third quarters to erase a 35-28 deficit and open up a 52-35 lead with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
They should be focused on the teams combining for 114 points and almost as many thrilling plays and moments.
Instead, it’s that second-to-last play that will stick in their memories — at least for a month until the rivals could meet in the Class 5A sectional final at Ames Field.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at email@example.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.