HARRISBURG — Like the weather, Harrisburg football couldn't make up its mind Tuesday night, when Brookfield beat Harrisburg 14-10, handing them their first ever loss.
The overcast skies made for an early, dark evening. The lights on the football field came on shortly after the 6:04 p.m. kickoff. Fans huddled under blankets and donned hoodies, and knees were shaking in the stands. There was a slight wind out of the south, making it feel colder than the 67 degrees the Weather Channel's phone app said it was.
The sky was gray — it wanted to rain. It spit a few drops early on, but it never opened up. It couldn't make up its mind.
Like the sky, Harrisburg's offense couldn't find a way to open up. It would put a drive together, only to throw an interception. It would break a big play, only to be penalized on the next snap.
It would drive deep into Brookfield territory, only to snap the ball over the quarterback's head. It would throw downfield to a receiver streaking toward the end zone, only to see the ball land just out of reach.
It wanted to spit some touchdowns, but it just couldn't open up. It couldn't make up its mind to score.
For the better part of four quarters of football, confusion, indecisiveness and frustration characterized the Bulldogs' offense. But finally, with under one minute left in the game, the Harrisburg offense decided to score, to make it rain with some big pass plays. It all started when Taylor Bottomley recorded a safety with just 56 seconds left in the game.
"I tried as hard as I could to get in there," Bottomley said. "The snap was a little low, and the kid couldn't grab it. He fell on it, and he didn't know he was in the end zone."
And that's when Bottomley jumped on him to record the safety.
Bottomley said he thought his safety "motivated" his team and "got adrenaline pumping in 'em."
He was right. After the special teams unit received Brookfield's safety punt and returned it to the Bulldogs' own 47-yard line, the offense took the field with gusto.
With 51 seconds on the clock, quarterback Blake Berry completed a 30-yard pass to receiver Jacob Rudkin. The Bulldogs struggled for the next 42 seconds to get the ball into the end zone, suffering incompletions, a bad snap and a penalty.
Just as their offensive storm looked like it was building, it died down.
But the Bulldogs kept trying. They converted a crucial fourth down and got the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line. Berry tried a quarterback dive that was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
The skies held.
But then, with 13 seconds left on the clock, Berry took a quick drop and found Drew Ewens on a 2-yard touchdown pass. Harrisburg put two more on the board when Berry connected with Rudkin for the two-point conversion.
In roughly a minute, the Bulldogs had scored 10 points, the offense accounting for eight of those. Harrisburg's defense, meanwhile, held Brookfield scoreless in the second half.
The offensive skies had opened. They rained a touchdown. They'd turned it into a close game.
The Bulldogs had one more shot to win the game. With nine seconds on the clock, they tried an onside kick. Brookfield recovered. The game was over.
Berry described the game as forgettable, though the last minute was hardly so. He was frustrated by the team's mental errors and penalties.
Still, the Bulldogs fought until the very end.
Coach Travis Kinkade said in the closing huddle, "I'm proud of you for not quitting. I'm proud to be your coach, win or lose. One at a time, one at a time, we'll move forward."