ST. CHARLES — Time doesn't stop. Not from being freshmen in high school playing football with new teammates to when this moment arrives: down seven points in what could be the final game together, without a timeout to stop the clock from ticking away.
There was 2 minutes and 27 seconds left in its opening match of the Class 6 District 3 tournament when Hickman finally put a stop to Francis Howell Central's relentless rushing attack. Down 24-17, senior quarterback Mason Murray and his offense was given another chance.
He had kept them upright earlier in the fourth quarter by tossing a touchdown to fellow senior Roderick Beasley, by scrambling and converting a 4-and-8 on the next possession, and by finding Beasley again when a fourth down threatened again later on the drive.
That drive ended with an interception and with 3:40 on the clock.
But his senior-laden defense had finally found a way to bottle up the Vikings' Kendall Morris, who ran for two touchdowns and over 200 yards. Now Murray and the Kewpies had another chance. Two minutes and 27 seconds left.
Murray would try to describe it later, but words would be hard to find. Down seven and the ball was in his hands with the end zone 40 yards away after a dash of five yards to keep the team's football life alive again on fourth down. But the clock was merciless.
There were 25 yards left, with 16 seconds left. Then only five seconds. The pass went to senior Grant Jones in the back of the end zone, a pass completed so many times before in these situations.
But the ball sails. The clock stops at zero. And that's it.
Francis Howell celebrated. Hickman players fell to their knees, tears came in an instant.
"You spend all of high school, before school, going down to the locker room, after school going to the locker room, practicing four hours a day, lifting, running," said senior running back Justise Keith, walking later toward the team bus, his voice trembling. "My whole high school life has been spent at football. Knowing that's gone is an unreal feeling."
Keith's first carry of the game was a 44-yard score, the first for the Kewpies. Soon after, injuries that hindered him all season came back.
"My last game of high school, and I didn't get to affect it that much," he said. "You just wonder on the sideline..."
The team turned to senior running back Bohannon Davidson, also limited all season due to injuries.
Despite the nagging pain in his ankles and hip, Davidson played. He even carried defenders trying to stop him.
"Emotions are high," he said. "Your brothers on the field, last time playing..."
Senior linebacker Christian Geen was walking toward the bus as well, stopping only when asked for words to describe his feelings.
"Indescribable," he said.
He stopped when asked about his high school career.
"I loved every second of it," he said. "I just wish it could go on."
He stopped again to fall into the arms of Hickman head coach Arnel Monroe.
Ahead of them was Murray.
"It didn't work out how we wanted it to," he said. "I guess it happens."
"Most of these people I've played with since my freshman year," Murray said. "And it's just, I wish it just didn't have to end like this. I love every person on this team."
Supervising editor is Nina Pantic.