Sandpoint left guard Pat Williams was on his knees at midfield with his tree-trunk-sized arms wrapped around his mother.
The tears were flowing as son and mother allowed the emotion of the past year and the Bulldogs’ 24-21 rally over Eagle in the State A-1 Division II championship game spill onto the blue frozen turf at Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium.
Several onlookers couldn’t help but be touched by their embrace.
The 5-foot-10, 260-pound Williams dedicated the season to his father, who died a day after Sandpoint’s final game last year after complications from a series of heart attacks.
“There’s no words that can explain it,” Williams said, trying to wipe his eyes but making no headway. “I promised (my father) this after he passed away.”
Dancin’ on frozen pond
More than 30 minutes after Sandpoint’s remarkable fourth-quarter comeback, Sandpoint players along with parents, siblings and friends were scattered on the BSU turf that had built up a slushy surface after rain earlier in the day.
Many in Sandpoint’s appreciative and vocal crowd - conservatively estimated at more than 500 - had made the trip via the airlines.
The Bulldogs were planning a pizza feast before jumping on two chartered buses and making an all-night return trip home.
“We’re not going to be sleeping,” a beaming Sandpoint coach Satini Puailoa said.
Several boosters had come forward to help make it possible for the team to fly to Boise. But the Bulldogs turned down the offer and chose to travel by land.
The bond they shared - particularly among 34 seniors - was evident afterward.
Not overly concerned
Eagle played a solid first half, using a ball-control offense to build a 21-10 lead.
But the Bulldogs thought they contributed to their own first-half struggles.
The defense gave up some big plays, the special teams allowed Eagle good field position three times. The offense didn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Which set the stage for the comeback.
“We weren’t out of it for sure at halftime,” said standout wide receiver Caleb Bowman, who caught nine passes for 81 yards and hauled in the winning TD reception.
“It should have been closer than what it was at half,” Bowman added. “But we came out and got it done. The defense came up big when we needed it.” How big was the defense? It allowed just 14 yards in the second half, and the Bulldogs had limited Eagle to negative yardage until the Mustangs’ final drive produced 30 yards.