I was asked a simple question on the radio this week.
What was the best sports moment of the past school year?
There were a lot of great sports moments. There were singular plays and full seasons of excellence. All that is a lot to whittle down to one.
I was there when the Glacier basketball team powered to a state championship without its best player on the floor. I was there when the Flathead wrestling team was so dominant this winter that it didn’t need an individual champion to run away with its first team title in eight years.
Glacier’s Justin Gibson won a wrestling title in the final seconds of his championship match.
The Columbia Falls girls destroyed every team they faced on the way to the state basketball and volleyball titles.
Libby’s Ryggs Johnston shot a 61 on the first day of the state tournament, possibly the lowest score in the history of prep competition in Montana.
Bryn Morley dominated the state cross country championship at a beautiful new venue at Rebecca Farm outside town.
Trey Tintinger, a freshman from Helena, came into Legends Stadium and nearly broke the Western AA divisional high jump record. He broke the state record the next week, clearing 7 feet, 1 1/2 inches, a mark that would have won the Big Sky championship and qualified for the NCAA finals.
All of those, and so many more I didn’t list, still pale in comparison to one moment.
It was a busy weekend, with three Northwest teams in the football title games of all three 11-man classes.
Glacier lost to a juggernaut in Billings Senior, and I was on the long road back home when Columbia Falls and Eureka kicked off their respective title games.
By the midway point of my drive, as I stopped for food, both seem destined to end up on the wrong end of the final score, until, of course, it all changed.
Eureka, by some miracle, drove the length of the field in the final few minutes, setting up one final play with 8.5 seconds left.
Quarterback Garrett Graves unleashed a 38-yard heave that found Austyn Sherwood behind the Missoula Loyola defense, where he backed into the end zone with no time left.
Not only was it an exciting play, it was to win the state championship. Eureka’s first football state championship.
Eventually, the video came out. And the first-person accounts.
Their coach’s exasperated description was perfect.
“Unbelieveable,” Eureka coach Trevor Utter said after the game.
“It was unreal.”
It was a perfect throw and a perfect play to cap a near perfect season for the Lions.
So, in a year that had a lot of great moments and more than its share of great stories, there was one clear choice for the best this year.
But, man, this year didn’t make that choice easy.