COLUMBIA — As beautiful as the weather was for football, it paled in comparison to the beauty of Nash Sutherlin's 33-yard touchdown run, which came late in the first quarter during Battle's 49-28 win over Carnahan.
It was the first hint of fall weather at Battle. The game began with a beautiful sunset: oranges, pinks and purples — with a smattering of thin, low clouds — lit the sky behind the home stands. As night settled in, the moon rose over the visitor stands. It was full and bright, at times struggling to break through a stray cloud. On the field, steam rose off of helmetless players' heads, and their breath was faintly visible in the chilly air.
Carla Tigue and her granddaughter, London, were bundled up in the stands. London sat on her grandmother's lap, outfitted in what Tigue called her "fall attire." The toddler had a white knitted stocking cap on. She looked warm and cozy.
At halftime, Tigue watched the band exit the field and the football players emerge from the locker to begin stretching. She talked about the action she saw in the first half, qualifying her remarks by reminding her fellow spectators that she considers herself a "soccer mom" and somewhat of a novice football fan.
But she didn't need to be an expert to admire the beauty of Sutherlin's dazzling 33-yard touchdown run. All she and the rest of the Battle fan base had to be able to do was point. And that's exactly what Tigue did when asked about the most remarkable thing she saw in the first half. She pointed at the far sideline, toward the corner of the end zone nearest the school. Because that's where beauty lived for a handful of seconds Friday night.
Beauty took the form of power, elusiveness, speed and vision when Sutherlin took the handoff late in the first quarter. His scamper was the first score for the Spartans and led to the game-tying two-point conversion.
"It was a Sports Center run," James McQuitty, a Battle fan, said.
Indeed it was, and here's what it looked like according to coach Justin Conyers.
"As soon as he came through on that front side, I saw him get around the edge. As soon as he got around the edge, I said, 'Okay, he's gonna go ahead and get outside.' And then he cuts it back 'cause their backers are flowing hard — they're playing us really good laterally from sideline to sideline. When he cuts it back, right into the flow of the (defense), you think, 'Oh man, it's dead.' And then all of a sudden, he powers through."
"And then he starts making moves, and he's dipping and ripping and swimming, all of the above. It gives me goosebumps talking about it," Conyers said.
"He was able to pretty much evade 11 guys on D and get into the end zone," Conyers said.
From the stands, all you saw was Sutherlin start outside toward the far sideline, then abruptly cut back into the teeth of the defense — there were three defenders waiting to corral him.
Sutherlin lowered his shoulder, plowing through the would-be tacklers, busting through and scattering them like bowling pins.
Then, he veered back toward the sideline, looking for more room to run. But there was none. He sidestepped another defender, sending him diving out of bounds.
He put the brakes on, coming to a standstill for just a nanosecond, enough time to make another defender tackle the air where Sutherlin should have been.
And then came the pseudospin move, an improvised twister to his left that saw him simultaneously juke and drag a couple of defenders toward the end zone. He kept his feet churning, pumping as hard as he could, the defenders desperately clinging onto his legs.
But Sutherlin prevailed and staggered into the front-left corner of the end zone for six. Almost all the fans were on their feet, and the noise swelled to fever pitch. And yet some fans couldn't cheer, they were speechless. That's why they just pointed, pointed like Tigue did when she remembered the most remarkable moment she saw in the first half, the most beautiful moment of the game.
The run, for the majority of the fans, was the highlight of Battle's game. Yet Sutherlin himself couldn't remember much about it. All he could do was thank his linemen, the linemen that he didn't really need on this particular highlight-worthy, hard-charging helter-skelter run.
But that's not who Sutherlin is. For all his razzle-dazzle on the field, he's modest and soft-spoken after the game. He thanks his linemen because not every run can be this run. Not every carry can be so beautiful.