A fatal play leads to an understanding of ‘team’
Editor’s Note: Eamon McMahon was an outstanding wide receiver and defensive back on the 2015 Petaluma High School football team that went 8-4 (5-1 in the Sonoma County League) and was arguably the best Petaluma team ever that did not win a league championship. He recalls the memorable game against Analy that prevented the Trojans from taking a title, a game that ranks as one of the all-time great contests ever played by a Petaluma team.
Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. This particular date, I am positive, I will remember for the rest of my life. While it was just another Friday in November to most people, this seemingly unfortunate day changed my life forever. This was the day my outstretched fingers failed by inches to prevent Analy’s last-second, game-winning pass against Petaluma for the Sonoma County League football crown.
In the game of football, you win and lose as a team. No matter how outstanding you play personally, if one man messes up on one play, you all go down together. That’s what makes football such a binding sport. You have no control over anyone’s actions but your own, and you work as hard as you can every day, not only for personal improvement, but to prove to your teammates that you have their back on every play of the game. Accountability and responsibility are two pivotal life lessons I have learned throughout my high school playing career, because when you make a mistake on the field and let your team down, there is no choice but to own up to your mistake, put it in the past, and put even more effort into making it up to your team. Some mistakes, however, are more difficult to forget.
By this time, everyone in Sonoma County knows how the Petaluma vs. Analy SCL championship game ended last year. Everyone remembers the iconic photo of Ross Simmons catching that 50-yard bomb from Jack Newman to walk off and win the game in the final seconds. Everyone remembers the Trojans getting so close to pulling off an incredible upset against an undefeated league rival, and letting it slip away on the very last play.
What no one remembers is what I remember. I remember the two weeks leading up to the game, where my teammates and I spent countless hours practicing harder than ever before, watching film, and doing extra drills after practice to make sure we were prepared for any situation that might occur. I remember walking onto the field for the coin toss, being elected as one of four captains for this game by my coach, feeling incredibly excited and eager to get the game started. I remember the very first play of the game for Analy on offense, where I shut down Simmons on a deep pass and swatted the ball to the turf with confidence. I remember the play exactly before the last, where I shadowed and covered the Analy receiver perfectly once again on a deep throw, motivated by my quarterback Brendan White’s words that this was a “No fly zone,” and that my guy wasn’t going to get past me. Finally, I remember lying face down on the turf, crying hysterically, wishing I hadn’t just made the worst mistake of my life.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened. In my mind, I had played my best game up to that point, only to have it all thrown away by one unfortunate mistake in the one game that mattered most. I had worked so hard, played such a great game, and wanted to win as much as anyone on that field. I felt selfish in a way, because I found myself asking the question, “Why me?” Why did I have to be the one to give up the game-winning touchdown against our rivals? Why did I have to be the one to face all the humiliation and shame after so much preparation?