Why sports matter to me

I+present+the+Region+2-AAAAA+championship+trophy+to+the+Starr%E2%80%99s+Mill+football+team+after+their+38-7+victory+over+the+McIntosh+Chiefs+last+season.+Since+I+really+started+getting+into+sports%2C+I+have+grown+to+love+several+aspects+of+them.+Covering+Panther+football%E2%80%99s+2018+quarterfinal+game+against+the+Dutchtown+Bulldogs+signifies+my+favorite+sports+moment+and+symbolizes+why+sports+matter.

Annika Pepper

I present the Region 2-AAAAA championship trophy to the Starr’s Mill football team after their 38-7 victory over the McIntosh Chiefs last season. Since I really started getting into sports, I have grown to love several aspects of them. Covering Panther football’s 2018 quarterfinal game against the Dutchtown Bulldogs signifies my favorite sports moment and symbolizes why sports matter.

Contrary to what some may believe, I have not been a sports fan for that long. I only really started getting into sports in 2015. By that I mean I started being heavily invested in watching sports and following what is going on. I learned to love sports for several reasons, including the people playing, the strategy involved, the stories told, and the moments that sports create.

This game had everything amazing, including one final push for victory that I refer to as “The Gamble.””

— Sports Editor Daniel Stackhouse

I could write over ten pages dissecting some of my favorite moments in my time of watching and following sports. Instead, however, I am going to dissect my favorite sports moment. No moment will ever come close to how valuable this one was for me. Not just for what it means to Panther football, but also what it means to me. 

It was Starr’s Mill football’s quarterfinal game against the Dutchtown Bulldogs in the AAAAA state playoffs. This game had everything amazing, including one final push for victory that I refer to as “The Gamble.”

A week before this game was to take place, I got a text saying that the then Sports Editor Ben Barkley could not cover our quarterfinal matchup against the Dutchtown Bulldogs, and I was being asked to step up. Having only been on The Prowler for a couple months, this was the big opportunity I was waiting for to really show the sports journalist I was capable of being.

Once the game was underway, the anticipation that I came into the stadium with turned into nervous tension.”

— Sports Editor Daniel Stackhouse

That week leading up to the game was filled with apprehension. It was exciting to see the smack talk from both schools. Particularly from Dutchtown, who was beyond confident that they were going to win, boasting about their mighty defense led by now Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. It helped create this reputation of Starr’s Mill being the underdog. This buildup became so much to bear that I was beyond excited when I was finally driving up to Panther Stadium for the game.

Once the game was underway, the anticipation that I came into the stadium with turned into nervous tension. These nerves came out of me solely based on the concept that I absolutely had no idea what was going to happen.

Before I knew it, we were already up by multiple scores going into halftime. Though Dutchtown clawed their way back and trimmed the Panthers’ lead throughout the second half. Across the game, I was doing my best to cover the game. Through it all, the adrenaline of being in the moments in the game kept my blood pumping. Watching a war play out in front of me, one moment after another, was mesmerizing.

Dutchtown almost won the game, but a penalty forced them to settle for a field goal. The game went into overtime, both teams tied at 17. In my mind, I was losing it. The Bulldogs had kept themselves in this game while Starr’s Mill did all they could to keep them away from victory. As a journalist, the game was giving me a great story. As a spectator, I could not believe what was happening.

The Bulldogs scored in two plays, taking a 24-17 lead. Then senior running backs Ben Bodne and Kalen Sims worked together to give the Panthers a touchdown in three plays. A facemask penalty put the Panthers even closer to the goal line for the point after, but the team decided that they wanted to go for all or nothing. I was watching a team willingly consent to the risk of losing everything all in one play and control their destiny.

The gamble paid off, allowing the Panthers to move on to the state semifinals with a 25-24 win in overtime.”

— Sports Editor Daniel Stackhouse

At that moment I was mere feet away from the goal line while this was transpiring. Surrounded by tense alumni and students, the next few moments turned into millennia. As the Panther offense lined up for the first attempt, Anderson was lined up where they wanted their ball carrier to go, prompting the team to take a timeout.

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long timeout, the team trotted back on the field for the two-point attempt. Multiple players lined up in a straight line behind the center and immediately scattered about. They confused Anderson, who shifted toward the direction opposite where the play was intended to go. Everything was coming together.

Leading up to the snap, time slowed to a crawl. Sims took the handoff to the left and found an open hold between the slot and the wing, and fell into the end zone. The two-point conversion was good. My heart exploded in excitement as everybody around me shouted and jumped out of sheer hype. The gamble paid off, allowing the Panthers to move on to the state semifinals with a 25-24 win in overtime.

Seeing Sims land in the end zone and the entire stadium go crazy is a sense of euphoria that I am never going to forget.”

— Sports Editor Daniel Stackhouse

Across one game, I experienced so many different feelings and emotions that make sports such a treat to witness. Whether it be the buildup to the game, the tension, or the explosive finale, everything I could have experienced was experienced in this one game. Even in writing the cover story over a year ago, you still had to have been there to experience the excitement of watching that game play out in real time.

Then it hit me: this is why sports are amazing. It is not just about seeing athletes do their thing. It is watching all their hard work in practice and in the games pay off. It is the effort from both teams that turn a game into an all out war. It is the people that go above and beyond in the name of glory. Above all of this, it is the iconic moments that last a lifetime.

Ask anybody and they will tell you sports moments personal to them that they hold close for one reason or another. That is why sports have a long-lasting impact on people. Whether you play or simply watch, there will always be a moment that will stick with you forever.

Over the past couple of years, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to write about all different kinds of sports in all different kinds of ways. I’ve discovered I love to share with people my passion for sports and being able to talk with not only athletes and coaches, but other fellow fans.

Sports are incredible because they provide such fun memories. Take “The Gamble,” as one example. Seeing Sims land in the end zone and the entire stadium go crazy is a sense of euphoria that I am never going to forget.

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