It’s never over until it ends

Last Saturday, the Tabor College football team pulled off one of the more entertaining comeback victories I’ve had the opportunity to cover.

The Bluejays trailed by as many as 22 points late in the second quarter and found themselves down, 28-9, at halftime.

Tabor came out of the locker room after intermission on a mission. The Blue­jay defense shutout visiting Sterling in the third quarter, while the offense added a field goal and a touchdown to narrow the gap to 28-18 heading into the final period.

By scoring back-to-back touchdowns, Tabor jumped in front for the first time, but then the lead changed hands five times in the final 5:15.

Tabor held a 39-35 margin with 3:05 to go, but Sterling came right back and scored with just 30 seconds left to regain the advantage, 42-39.

At that point, I turned to someone on the sideline and said, “Anything can happen. It’s not over yet.”

In those final seconds, Tabor orchestrated what would become the winning scoring drive. Quarterback Curry Parham targeted Darius Stallworth in the end zone for the touchdown with just two seconds left.

Afterward, head coach Mike Gardner’s words resonated on a deeper level as he spoke about what had taken place on the field.

Gardner affirmed his athletes’ ability to focus in spite of the circumstances around them, particularly during the final scoring drive.

He said: “There’s an old saying, ‘Players make plays in big games,’ but I think it’s more than just being a player and making a play. I think it’s having the ability to be calm while there’s chaos going on around you. I think it’s more so that than ability because everybody’s got ability. It’s a mental state you put yourself in where you remain in the moment and you don’t let the moment define you.”

It’s an idea put forth in the book “Mind Gym” by Gary Mack with David Casstevens. Instead of becoming internally self-conscious—focusing on our fears, anxieties and insecurities, Mack challenges readers to become externally task-conscious—placing one’s attention on the task at hand and the very next step to be taken.

That’s what the Bluejays did on their last drive. Focus on the play at hand. Execute. And advance.

That’s what we need to do in life, too. Focus on the very next thing in front of us, not getting caught up in past failures or future worries.

I penned these words on Facebook a few weeks ago— I was reminiscing about a trip to Alaska where I took a photo at the end of the road outside of Juneau—and I will share them here:

“Friends, do you ever feel like you’ve reached the end of the road? Like your ambitions, hopes and dreams are going nowhere? Like you’ve tried so many times before and failed?

“Today let me encourage you with this: no matter how dark things seem, there is always hope. So let’s keep plodding onward, putting one foot in front of the other, or as I like to say, winning the very next pitch that comes our way. One step at a time, one circumstance at a time, with God’s help we can find strength to overcome. This is not the end.”

I’m not sure where you’re at in your “game” right now. Maybe things are going well and the score is in your favor, or maybe you’ve fallen behind and are battling to get back on your feet and keep moving forward.

Let me encourage you with this. The game is not over.

I’ll close with this from Coach Gardner: “I think we learned that the game is never, ever, ever over. We were down as much as three possessions. You just have to keep playing, and you have to play one play at a time.”

Janae Rempel is the Free Press sport editor. You can reach her at janae@hillsborofreepress.com.