Like a commander in battle, Jacob Overton led the Minco Bulldogs team out night after night, week after week in a season that has taken the program to new heights.
But when the fearless leader went down on just the third play of the team's game against Apache, everything that had been worked toward since September seemed to go with him. It was like a mythological occurrence, the proverbial tale of the Minco Achilles. As the clock ran down, the story became real; Minco was out of the Class A playoffs.
"We just kept doing what we do," head coach Clint Warren said. "They beat us. That's the way it goes. Watch Denver struggle if Manning goes down; watch the Chicago Bulls struggle now that Derrick Rose is out. He was a big part of our offense."
There's no way to underestimate that. During four years as a starter for the varsity team, Overton accumulated well over 3,000 yards receiving and 2,000 yards rushing, according to Warren. Up until Saturday, Overton had played every single quarter of every single game during his high school career.
As tough as the injury may have been, and as much as it may have hurt, Overton has shown his willingness to stay positive and focus most on what matters to him.
"To God be the glory forever and ever amen!" Overton wrote on his Twitter account after the game. "Physically I am hurt but my soul is just fine guys. Continued prayer and support would be great."
Photos of the tackle show Overton's right knee moving in a way that it shouldn't, bending to the inside as the Apache tackler made his move. A photo that reportedly showed Overton being tackled on one play before shows two Apache players: one trying to bring him down from behind, the other lunging low at knee level.
Warren said he does not at all thing the Apache players were trying to injure his star man, and finds any suggestion to the contrary "absurd."
"I think the kid just tackled him," Warren said. "It's part of the game."
With Overton on the sidelines, the Bulldog offense found life particularly hard against a very strong Apache defense. It's something teams find often at this part of the season.
"When you're around this time, everyone's good," Warren said. "If life throws a curveball, you've just got to keep swinging."
With a 10-2 record to finish on, the road ahead for Minco looks bright, Warren said. And while he and the team may not have realized their goal of practicing on Thanksgiving for the upcoming quarterfinal game on Friday, there is much to be thankful for.
"There's a lot of teams that would like to have the opportunity that we had," Warren said. "We were in the upper echelon of Class A. I expect us to practice on Thanksgiving from now on."