The late Yogi Berra’s most prophetic quotation may have been, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
That motto epitomized the Smith-Cotton High School football team’s remarkable victory a week ago in Nevada, and there are lessons to be drawn from the events and outcome of that game as well as from the life and quotable sayings of Berra, the New York Yankees legend who died this past week.
This is being written before Friday night’s home game against West Central Conference rival O’Hara, but no matter the outcome of that game S-C is having a memorable run, getting out to a 5-0 start in its first season at the new Tiger Stadium. Last week S-C loaded up a pair of buses and made the more than two-hour trek to Nevada (the drive times for WCC games is a topic for another day — there has to be a less travel-intensive way to draw up conferences in this state).
Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.” S-C knew where they were headed, but the destination was a different landscape. Nevada’s record was 1-3 coming into the game, but that night was homecoming and Nevada was honoring a former coach who is battling cancer — that is a lot of “tackling fuel” for a team looking for a win.
Berra also said, “You can observe a lot just by watching;” the look and feel of Nevada’s Logan Field before the game was a tad frightening if you were a visitor. The stands were packed, the emotion was palpable and gray clouds hung low after a pre-game rain shower.
The game was scoreless until late in the second quarter, when a S-C turnover led to a Nevada touchdown. As the second half got under way, another S-C turnover led to another Nevada TD, but the missed point-after kick put the score at 13-0. “It’s déjà vu all over again,” Berra once said, and that comment seemed fitting for S-C since Nevada won last year’s matchup at the old Jennie Jaynes Stadium.
With 3:20 left to play in the third quarter, the game was suspended due to a severe weather warning. The skies weren’t the only thing looking ominous, as S-C’s unbeaten streak and quest for the WCC title were looking bleak. But the break was just what S-C needed.
Another Berra quip: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” The weather break gave Smith-Cotton’s coaches a chance to review video from the first half and the players a chance to refuel and recharge. When the teams returned after a nearly two-hour delay, what could have been a weary walkthrough on the way to a Nevada win instead became a 15-minute all-out battle.
Berra also said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” The entire S-C program came out with the right mindset and the players — especially the offensive line — ramped up the physicality. S-C scored on the first play after the delay then punched home what would be the winning score on its next possession.
Berra was 5-foot-7 and weighed 185 pounds during his playing days, but his presence on the field was monumental. He won more World Series rings than anyone else (10), was selected to play in the All-Star Game 18 times and won three Most Valuable Player awards. To borrow a couple of well-worn phrases, he was living proof that great things come in small packages, and that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Berra’s “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” mentality drove him to the Hall of Fame, and that mindset is what pushed Smith-Cotton to an important road win on a dark and stormy night.
Nevada was left with only thoughts of another Berra line: “You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.