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The day they sent some demons away at NFA

Norwich — Life, it has been suggested, is not measured by time. But by moments. So maybe we begin here: The time was right for this moment.

Because Norwich Free Academy needed a moment. Heck, it was a de facto infomercial by the time the celebration ended. And leave it to the kids to provide the euphoric jolt, illustrating all over again it's kids who makes the moments that sustain our schools and the kids who can clean up the adult tumult.

This was last Friday on NFA's turfed lawn, the last play of its football game against Killingly. Except that nobody knew it would be the last play. Overtime was imminent on this baby-it's-cold-outside night. But with one second left in regulation, there was the formality of one last play and half a chance at the miraculous.

Jayden Desilus, the third quarterback the Wildcats have used this season, threw a fastball to Max Pierre Louis, who dutifully caught the ball at the 20-yard line. Ah, but it was still the 20-yard line. Twenty yards from glory.

Pierre Louis waited a moment in this moment, just long enough for teammate Andrew Cote to come sprinting past. Cote was on the dead run now and then you knew: hook and lateral. Pierre Louis calmly flipped the ball to Cote, whose churning legs did the rest.

Look at this ... wait a minute ... holy (expletive!) ...

Touchdown, NFA.


The miraculous became a current event. The kids piled on each other. The students who filled the in-full-throat student section — far and away the best in the region this fall — spilled on to the field. Utter joy. Why sports beat all sometimes.

This was the day, as they sang in Jekyll and Hyde, when they sent some of the doubts and demons on their way at NFA.

It was of the kids, for the kids and by the kids. The kids who came to NFA's rescue, under the notable guidance of their football coach, who is teaching them all the right things.

Arguments will never end about the proper frame for sports on a high school campus. Some overstate. Some understate. But there is no other endeavor that unites, inspires and heals better than when the great unwritten script of sports sends down a miracle.

NFA needed this. In spite of what its apologists perpetuate, the stench of last year, when some true ugliness of the past surfaced, lingers. How refreshing that the kids, through the spirit of the student section and resilience of the football team, could reinvigorate their school and perhaps make sins of the past a duller ache.

It's been quite the ride for Jason Bakoulis, the head coach, who likes to aw-shucks his way through postgame interviews. Ask him about the hook-and-lateral and he credits his offensive coaches. Ask him about the defense (and he loooooooooves his defense) he credits the defensive coaches. All he talks about his one rep at a time.

He is, of course, subliminally teaching his people only the best way to navigate our days: one rep at a time. And without excuse. There have been plenty of excuses for the Wildcats this season. Except they've succumbed to none of them.

Playing a ridiculous schedule? Bakoulis entertains none of it.

Down to their third quarterback because of freak injury? Next man up.

So maybe this is the universe rewarding the Wildcats for adopting the attitude of their coach. They're learning that fairness isn't promised, but rewards are guaranteed with the right disposition.

Again: Not an easy lesson to teach seasoned adults, let alone impressionable high school kids who may or may not have attention spans longer than station identification.

The playoffs appear a longshot for the Wildcats who are 5-3 with two games left. But they've already had their moment. It was a tangible moment on the field last Friday. They've been intangible moments in their minds for a while now, the product of reacting to adversity with positivity.

Quite the educational lesson out there on a football field.

Sports at their best.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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