Did you hear about the big overtime football game?
The one that TV and radio types were yapping about.
No, not that game.
This game: Olympus Gray vs. Alta White.
The Ute Conference Pee Wee championship game.
The players are 10 years old and weigh anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds. They recently produced the most exciting, stupendous, hard-fought, bite-your-nails-to-the-bone game in the state this year.
If a close score and drama define the greatness of a game, then give this thing the Oscar.
The game went eight — count 'em, eight — overtimes.
It lasted three hours and 10 minutes. That's without TV timeouts. Other than a halftime break to eat orange slices and listen to the coaches' spiels, it was 190 minutes of actual football — or the equivalent of two full little league games.
How good was it? When is the last time you saw highlights of a little league football game on the evening news? Channel 2 had just one question when they were handed a copy of the game tape: "Have you given this to any other station?" ESPN called about the game.
"I've never seen anything like it," said league president Brian Burk, "and I've been around this for more than 20 years."
The game began with only a sparse gathering of parents around the sidelines. With the start of each overtime period, the crowd grew and grew. By the end of the eighth overtime, the field at Rose Park was ringed by people five and six deep as word spread to the other fields about what was unfolding.
Suddenly, the $3 gate fee was a bargain.
Overtimes are a statistical anomaly. What are the odds of two teams finishing with the exact number of points given all the variables of fumbles, extra points, interceptions, missed tackles, varying abilities, etc. One or two overtime periods are rare enough. Eight overtimes is another matter.
The national high school record is nine overtimes, set in 1977 when Detroit's Northeastern High beat cross-town rival Southeastern 42-36.
There have been three high school games that went to eight overtimes, the last one occurring in 1994.
The NCAA Division 1 record is seven overtimes, which has occurred twice — in 2003, Arkansas beat Kentucky 71-63 in a game that lasted four hours, 56 minutes; in 2001, Arkansas beat Mississippi 58-56.
The little league overtime format gives each team four downs to score from the 10-yard line. In the Olympus-Alta showdown, 11 of the 16 overtime possessions went to fourth down.
"You could hear a pin drop in the huddle," said Alta coach Tony Rivas. "Every one of their eyeballs were burning a hole in the back of my skull waiting for me to call the play."
In the other huddle, the boys were trying to understand it all. "Coach, what happens if they score?" "What happens if we score?" Says Brown, "It was all new to them."
Brown wanted the game called off after the first few overtimes. He tried to convince one of the sideline officials to declare co-champions.
"There shouldn't have been a loser in that game," he says. "Three hours and 10 minutes. We had kids crying and getting hurt. Something should have been done. Enough is enough. My running back had to leave the field because he was so dehydrated."
Of course, then in the next sentence Brown is saying, "It was a blast. Everyone had a great time. It will go down in the history books."
In the end, someone finally did win the thing. Spencer Taylor intercepted a pass to snuff Olympus' eighth possession in overtime, then on the next play he ran around the end for a touchdown and Alta won 39-33.
Afterward, Rivas and Brown hugged. Even parents from the losing side were hugging Rivas. Brown went home and wrote a four-page entry in his journal about the experience, which he plans to read to the boys.
"It was quite a day," he says.
"This really is one of those times that it's unfortunate someone had to lose," says Rivas.