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Published: Thursday, 10/6/2005

Sidelines: The end result is still a big thrill

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Dan Tarver calls the feeling "intense." Patrick Martin says it is "a thrill."

And Branden Stansley said it was a feeling every defensive player dreams about.

What are these football players describing? All three are trying to put into words the joy and excitement behind the game's biggest play: scoring a touchdown.

Tarver, a senior tailback at Lake, has extensive experience reaching paydirt. He already has scored 21 touchdowns in six games this season, including six in the Flyers' 42-7 win over Lakota.

But Tarver, who scored a total of five TDs in his first two seasons at Lake, said reaching the end zone never loses its luster.

"No, the excitement never wears off - in fact, it gets even more exciting as the game wears on," he said. "I don't know why someone would not get excited [scoring a touchdown]. It's

exhilarating, and it's a confidence boost.

"As soon as I get the ball, time seems to slow down as I see the hole. Then when I get through the hole and see the end zone, things pick up 100 percent. Things start moving really fast."

From left, Tarver, Stansley, Shope, Martin From left, Tarver, Stansley, Shope, Martin
Enlarge

The funniest thing about scoring is that, despite all of his practice, Tarver said he still doesn't quite know how to act when he reaches the end zone.

"I just run to the ref and hand him the ball," he said. "But my teammates, they go crazy - they scream, they run into me, and they knock me down."

Delta's Dustin Shope doesn't have as much experience scoring. In fact, when Shope returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the Panthers' 60-8 win over Northwood, it was the senior's first varsity score.

"It was a different feeling [to score], because guys like me aren't supposed to score," said Shope, who plays linebacker on defense and tight end on offense. "I loved the feeling when all the guys ran into me, and I gave a chest bump to my friend [Aaron Mahnke].

"I think that's what makes it better - it's not something that happens all the time."

Shope said the Delta coaches call him and the other tight ends "the third tackle," so he finds his excitement opening up holes that allow teammates to score.

"When [a teammate] scores, it's like I'm scoring, too," Shope said. "I feel it's my block that got them into the end zone. That's how you have to think: You're not [blocking] for me, you're doing it for the team."

On Shope's TD, teammate Logan Schlosser came from the outside and blocked the punt; the ball bounced right to Shope, who scooped it up and ran untouched into the end zone.

"When that happens, there's a huge momentum swing," Shope said. "We didn't have a block on - it was just a regular return. Now we know it doesn't take anything special to block a punt, it just takes an effort."

Clay junior Patrick Martin also scored a momentum-changing touchdown. It came when he caught the game-winning pass from quarterback Brent Graham in the final moments of the Eagles' 19-17 comeback victory over Whitmer.

"When I got to the line, I saw no one was over me," Martin said. "I ran a hard route, and I made sure I got into the end zone. I saw Brent scramble, and I tried to stay open. Then he hit me in the numbers [with the pass]."

Martin said only one word could describe his feelings after scoring his first varsity touchdown: mayhem.

"I tried to give the ball to the ref, but guys were all over me," he said. "I put my arms in the air to celebrate, because all of the hard work I've put into practice was rewarded.

"It was so exciting, and so much of a thrill, to catch a game-winning pass under the lights."

Martin said his accomplishment didn't quite sink in until he reached the sideline.

"With all the emotions going on, I still wasn't understanding what was happening," he said. "But when I got to the sideline, it all hit me. It all happened so fast, it took a while to catch up."

Northview's Stansley had perhaps the rarest touchdown experience in the Wildcats' 47-27 win over Springfield. He returned an interception 100 yards for a score, then picked up a fumble and ran 10 yards for a TD, giving him two defensive TDs in the same game.

"I know that it's rare [to score twice on defense], but I had a great group of guys on defense who helped make it happen," Stansley said. "On the interception, the defensive line put pressure on their quarterback, and he threw the ball up for grabs. I caught it in the end zone and there was a pack of blockers in front of me.

"On the fumble recovery one of our linebackers, Brian Koehl, put his hat on the ball and as it rolled to the sidelines, I just picked it up and ran with it."

Stansley, who starts at free safety for the Wildcats, said scoring on defense was an unexpected pleasure.

"On defense, you try to keep the other team from scoring, but [scoring a touchdown] is a feeling every defensive player dreams to have," he said. "It was pure adrenaline, pure excitement."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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