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Best I’ve covered: Central Mountain-Bellefonte 4OT football game thriller

By SHAREIK FLOWERS

sflowers@lockhaven.com

MILL HALL-Being a sports reporter is one of life’s greatest privileges– and I’m blessed to have landed a career in a field I’ve had enthusiastic interest in since I was a child.

In elementary school I remember my father returning home from work each day with a copy of the New York Post tucked under his arm– and me anxiously flipping to the back pages to scan and gloss over the latest New York Giants news.

I processed the stories daily and was instantly hooked. There was no turning back. I knew I wanted to get paid to write about sports– or at least be paid to talk about it.

After graduating college I secured my first job with The Express–and believe me I’ve loved every moment of it.

I’ve covered almost every high school sport, I’ve covered Penn State football, the regional boxing championships at Lock Haven University and even traveled to Bristol, Connecticut to cover Keystone in the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Regional. My job has forced me to travel all throughout the state — but one game I’m particularly fond of the most happened locally in Centre County. It was a 34-31 quadruple-overtime win for the Bellefonte Red Raiders over the Central Mountain Wildcats.

This Week 4 2017 matchup was a classic, thriller, barn-burner or whatever you call a nail-biting game that captures everyone’s imagination.

It’s no secret the Central Mountain football team has had its ups-and-downs in recent seasons– and that Friday night I fully expected Bellefonte to torch the visiting Wildcats.

But boy was I wrong.

What unfolded that evening was a four-overtime contest that was perhaps my favorite football game I’ve covered as a young sports writer.

This game had it all. There was back-and-forth action, highlight-reel plays in Cade Fortney’s 70-yard touchdown run for Bellefonte, and Izzy McCann’s 32-yard touchdown reception for Central Mountain.

The game entered overtime tied 14-14 after a last-second 46-yard field goal attempt by the Wildcats floated wide left.

Both teams euphorically traded touchdowns in the two opening overtimes before a scoreless third. Austyn Carson’s field goal sent CM ahead 31-28 in the fourth before the Raiders responded and Dexter Gallishaw cashed in a two-yard touchdown run to end the game in Bellefonte’s favor, 34-31.

Football games typically end around 9:15-9:30, but this one extended way past 10 p.m. Once my post-game interviews concluded it was almost 10:45 p.m– giving me a brief period to write my recap.

I managed to total over 600 words in a little over 20 minutes while writing in the back seat of my car. Deadlines are stressful in journalism– but it’s a priceless feeling when you’re able to hurdle obstacles, like an unreasonably late-ending game, and still finish your work on time.

That win increased Bellefonte’s record to 3-1 but dropped Central Mountain to 0-4 on the season. CM only won one game that year– and subsequently only one game each year in the previous two seasons– but in defeat that was one of my favorite Central Mountain performances I’ve witnessed. They scored 31-points that night– which was their second-highest outing during my term as an Express reporter.

They say “if you love what you do you never work another day in your life.” So for me– these last 3 1/2 years have felt like one-long summer break. During this time-frame I’ve witnessed some sensational-athletic competition.

I’m fortunate enough to land a career doing something I love, and I hope the current high school and college seniors find professions they’re passionate about just like this writer was able to.

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