In a 24-hour span, the ultimate ugliness of football in Cleveland, Ohio was transformed into a heartfelt lifting night in Cache, Oklahoma.
On Thursday, in perhaps a moment of insanity, Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett decided to bop Pittsburgh Steelers and former Oklahoma State star quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with Rudolph's own helmet, in the midst of a brawl in the final seconds of a Browns' 21-7 victory.
The act led to the season-ending suspension of Garrett and a few other game suspensions to a few players on both sides of the melee.
Flash forward one day to Cache, Oklahoma and the first round of the Class 4A state football playoffs between the Tecumseh Savages and Cache Bulldogs.
It was a tough week in the Tecumseh community in which a vehicle accident last Tuesday claimed the life of Savage football sophomore Ryder Kinsey and critically injured another student.
The Tecumseh squad not only had to prepare for a talented Cache team, the Savages had to battle through obvious sorrow and emotions.
For a little while, it looked as if Tecumseh had successfully navigated through those obstacles in building a 14-0 advantage through one quarter. A Jaylen Walker 12-yard scoring run less than two minutes into the game and an 81-yard strike from Will Hilton to Gavyn Rogers gave the Savages that early cushion.
The inspiring effort to start the game was short-lived however, as the Bulldogs countered with 42 unanswered points and eventually won by a 42-20 score.
Though the result was certainly not a positive for the Tecumseh faithful, the experience of the night was uplifting in a few ways.
In the second half, Cache cheerleaders passed buckets on the Cache side of Ulrich Stadium to collect donations for the two affected Tecumseh families. It was announced that more than $2,100 was raised in the effort.
Following the game, members of the Savage and Bulldog squads, along with cheerleaders, supporters, etc. gathered at midfield in a student-initiated prayer for the families.
In a news report by Lawton television station KSWO, channel 7, Cache Athletic Director Lonnie Nunley says their school has gone through what Tecumseh is going through now and he's proud they were able to step up and help.
“We were in constant contact with the Tecumseh administration to let them know we were praying for them, thinking about them,” said Nunley through the television report. “We wanted their town and community to come enjoy this playoff game, take their mind off the situation and come enjoy a Friday night in Southwest Oklahoma and play a little football.”
That's the beauty of small-town high school football in Oklahoma. Indeed there are times of black eyes in high school athletics in this state and elsewhere as well. But despite the seriousness of a football playoff game, one community embraced another in a time of sorrow which made leaving the stadium somewhat comforting.