And then it was done. The game ended, and the band began playing. Ice water dripped from the nose and chin of De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur, courtesy of a celebratory drenching by his players.
Those players were now racing pell-mell into the night, attempting to find deeper meaning in their 56-0 powder-kegging of College Park. They reveled in the moment the moment they won their 73rd consecutive game, establishing a national high school record.
What did it mean? How did it feel? Ladouceur was mobbed by the media, which had descended upon the game like ants on a picnic. Players gathered in clots, whooping and pounding each other on the helmet. Former De La Salle players, who had a hand in the care and feeding of The Streak, joined the party on the Diablo Valley College field.
It was a wonderful moment, even if the hotly rumored phone call from President Clinton failed to arrive. But even a moment so sanguine as this will play better as a time, when it can be savored as a whole.
"Right now, they're caught up in the moment, " the still-damp Ladouceur said 15 minutes after the end of the game. "The older they get, the wiser they get, they'll realize how wonderful their high school years were."
That realization has already dawned on members of the Hudson (Mich.) High School football team, whose record De La Salle broke on Friday night. Three members of that team made the pilgrimage to Pleasant Hill, delivering a signed football to Ladouceur on behalf of their team.
"It showed a lot of class coming out here like that, " Ladouceur said. "I know they knew what it was all about."
In time, De La Salle's players will, too. The Streak will never end, even when it ends. De La Salle will lose a game someday some things we must take on faith and overwhelming statistical probability but The Streak will live on.
It will live on in letters written from college dorm rooms, in high school reunions, in Thanksgiving Day touch football games, in white-hot discussions in dimly lighted taverns, in bedtime talks with young children, in freshman orientation, at graduations, weddings and funerals.
It will remain part of the fabric of people's lives. It will stand as testament to possibility. It will be a legacy to teamwork, camaraderie, hustle and a certain innocence that, by definition, is a temporary condition of youth.
The great thing is, it belongs to no one and to everyone. It is public domain.
"I'm real happy for the school, " Ladouceur said. "I know it will be a fond memory for them. When we're gone, it's something that will stay atDe La Salle."
It will be make a better memory as a time than as a moment. Truthfully, most of De La Salle's 73 wins were a lot like Friday's, which is to say, entirely absent of suspense.
College Park's big chance came on the opening kickoff. De La Salle's D.J. Williams returned the kick a good 60 yards, deep inside College Park territory, only to fumble. College Park's Abram Peterson picked up the loose ball, looked upfield at 11 snorting and huffing De La Salleplayers headed his way, and, speaking for six dozen similarly overmatched opponents since 1992, took off running in the direction of his own goal line. Anywhere to be where De La Salle wasn't.
One play after getting its hands back on the ball, De La Salle scored. Williams ran 38 yards for a touchdown, and that was that.
The question is, that was what? What does it mean to have been the best team on the field for 73 straight games?
"We've never emphasized that type of goal-setting you must win, " Ladouceur insisted afterward. "We don't prep that way. We prep on details. And we'll be doing it again on Monday."
Excellence as a way of life. That's what it means. As time goes by, The Streak will have less to do with football and more to do with other kinds of memories.
"I think we make a difference in kids' lives, " Ladouceur said. He already is miles ahead of The Streak. He already is seeing it with the kind of perspective it will take his players, and the fans who came to see a moment on Friday, decades to achieve.
He talks of young men "who come into our program who may not have a full family life. They kind of latch onto our program. It provides caring. They know someone cares for them."
Conceptually, that's a long way from undefeated seasons and championship banners. Which is as it should be. And as it will be.
"The streak wasn't a personal mission of mine, " Ladouceur said. "But I knew it was important to a lot of people. I think some day that record will be broken again.
"If I'm still around when it happens, I'm going to show up to that game, too, and shake those kids' hands."
And embellish their moment with his memories of a time.Readers may contact Gary Peterson by calling 943-8338, by fax at 930-6150 or by writing to P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.