These words have stood the testament of time! This exact statement could describe so much that happened during the final seconds of The Villages vs Eustis Football game this past Tuesday. With time winding down in the 4th quarter The Villages was down 29-22 and driving to tie the game. Danny Bitting was encouraging his boys to muster up any strength they had left to try and win the game
On multiple plays it appeared the game was over including a few 4th down conversions that kept The Villages season alive to that point. Bitting got The Buffalo down inside the 20 yard line with time winding down. On a 3rd down play the clock was at 40 seconds. Bitting scrambled to get out of bounds but was brought down in bounds. The Buffalo without timeouts had no choice but to throw a Hail Mary ball to the end zone and pray for someone to catch it.
On the other side of the football Eustis was 1 play away from going to the playoffs. The amount of pressure on the sideline must have been enormous. If they let The Villages score the likelyhood of making the playoffs went from 100% down to less than 20%.
The ball was hiked with 10 seconds remaining. Bitting scrambling as the clock counted down to 0. The offensive line gave Bitting almost no time the entire night but on this particular play Bitting had all the time he wanted. Bitting spotted a target in the end zone and it was Michael Florian. Bitting threw the ball and for a moment it looked like Florian and Bitting were going to have that incredible thrill of a job well done.
However the ball went from in the grasp of the wide receiver to the ground. To say the emotions in the stadium went from jubilation to utter disbelief and then to sadness all in the span of 1 second is an understatement. Meanwhile it was pandemonium and happiness on the Eustis sideline as The Panthers knew they were playoff bound!
The scenes that happened after the conclusion of the game were one of the saddest, toughest scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a program. After all was said and done Eustis broke down their huddle and ran to the bus in absolute happiness. Meanwhile many Villages players stayed on the field. Many of them crying, some looking for an absolution that would never come. The last player to come off the field was Danny Bitting.
He stood there he crouched and was deep in thought. I didn’t bother him, didn’t even cross my mind to interview him. I didn’t have to. I knew exactly what he was feeling. Anyone who’s been in his position knows the type of feeling you get when you feel like all the pressure and weight was on your shoulders.
Bitting was consoled at times by teammates but he never moved. You can tell this game meant everything to Bitting. He knew what this loss meant and so did coach Pettus of The Villages. I talked to the head coach of The Villages after the loss and all he could say as he fought back tears was that “he was sorry for his boys” “sorry they wouldn’t experience playoff football” I really felt for them. This is a team that’s made the playoffs the last 5 seasons and now all that’s left of the season is senior night.
Turning to leave the field I looked back one more time at Bitting still crouched. A Eustis player walked up and consoled the emotional quarterback. It was difficult to make out the number and if I get the player wrong my apologies but I believe it was Eustis Senior Guard #68 Chase Reisman. It wasn’t a long exchange but it was emotional because he was the only player other than The Villages athletes and staff to come console Bitting.
That moment really touched me. I didn’t even have the chance to get a photo of the moment but take my word for it if you could have seen it that’s what true sportsmanship is about. More than sportsmanship that’s what being human is about. That’s about the most down to earth human thing I’ve seen in a long time. I commend the young man of Eustis for coming over and doing that. I hope Bitting can look back at that moment even in the angst of everything and appreciate it.
Bitting is just a Junior. He will learn, and become a better quarterback and person from this game. This isn’t the last time you’ll hear about Danny Bitting. His story is just beginning as are so many on The Villages and Eustis.
Just goes to show that even in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat great things can come from the most unlikely of people. Best of luck to Eustis in the playoffs and we hope The Villages can go out with a win!