A celebration, followed by a stunned silence. Then an even bigger celebration, an argument and, at the end, the biggest celebration of all.
It was a crazy night at Hillside Stadium - but one the Kamloops Broncos will never forget.
The Broncos beat the Westshore Rebels 37-36 in a B.C. Football Conference game under the lights Saturday. The thrilling, controversial victory lifted the Broncos to 2-4-1 and, more importantly, into excellent playoff position with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Kamloops celebrated the victory as though it had clinched the playoff spot that heretofore has eluded it in its first six BCFC seasons. In reality, the Broncos would need a lot of bad luck (see playoff picture, below) to not make the postseason at this point.
"This is huge," said linebacker Grady Chalmers, the Broncos' hero on this night. "We knew that we needed one of these games against (Westshore). We knew that we had to win, to give us a shot."
The victory didn't come easily as the Broncos almost choked away a two-touchdown lead in the final two minutes. It was only Chalmers' hand - he's not entirely certain which one - and a referees' decision that kept this one from being a draw.
The Rebels, despite having brought only 34 players from Victoria, scored two touchdowns in the final 2:02, the last one coming on a 34-yard prayer from Mark Black to Eric Eggleston with no time on the clock, stunning a raucous crowd into silence.
All the Rebels had to do to get a tie - and greatly injure the Broncos' playoff hopes - was kick the point after. Chalmers blocked it, causing great celebration on the Broncos' sideline.
However, the Broncos appeared to have 13 men on the field. The coaches tried to make a late substitution, forcing defensive back Chris Rosa to make a mad dash to get off the field. As he neared the sideline, the Rebels snapped the ball.
By the time Chalmers had blocked the kick, the side official had thrown a flag, obviously for too many men on the field. After a few seconds of discussion, the officials determined that Rosa had made it to the sideline before the ball was snapped. That meant there was no penalty, a popular decision for the Broncos and their fans, but not so much for Westshore.
"We had an opportunity to tie, it's just too bad that some Foot Locker shirts blew the call at the end of the game," said Rebels head coach Tim Kearse. "But we had our opportunities, and I'm not going to say that play was our downfall.
"What I would say is that it's too bad that these guys didn't get rewarded for playing their asses off."
Rosa, who had a key first-half interception that led to a Kamloops touchdown, was the first player out of a jubilant Broncos dressing room, but refused to speak after the game.
Kearse had no such trouble.
"There was no real explanation (from the officials), there was just a bunch of shenanigans, as I would call it," he said. "At some point, the gates go up when a play is about to start. The refs never put the gates up, so they say (Rosa) got off the field. Well, plain and surely, as everyone on the field saw, that guy was not off the football field.
"But we're not going to say that was the cause for us losing the football game or not tying the football game - we had opportunities earlier."
Even the Broncos weren't sure what the heck happened on the final play, which will be the subject of debate in BCFC circles for a long time, especially considering it may very well cost the Rebels a playoff spot.
"It was a roller-coaster of emotions, up and down, up and down," said Chalmers, a fifth-year player out of Valleyview. "They decided to pick the flag up - I'm not too sure what happened."
The Broncos will take the victory any way they can, especially in what was the most important game of the season. Kamloops needed to split with the Rebels - the teams play in Victoria on Sept. 28 - to keep its playoff hopes alive, and guaranteed itself that with the victory.
And it was a solid, if not a little sloppy, effort. Kamloops scored the first 16 points of the fourth quarter to take a 14-point lead, then watched as Westshore put up a two-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead, followed by a four-play, 96-yard drive in the final 34 seconds to give it a chance to tie things up.
"My heart . . . it's just starting to get going again," Broncos head coach Duncan Olthuis said. "Unbelievable game."
Chalmers and Rosa were key parts of the final play, and both had big plays leading to Kamloops scores.
Rosa intercepted Westshore's Hunter Lake and returned it to the Rebels' one-yard line in the second quarter, setting up Jacob Palmarin's touchdown plunge. Chalmers scored his second career touchdown in the third quarter, picking up a fumble on a botched punt attempt and trotting 22 yards into the end zone.
The rest of the scoring came from a decent offensive effort led by quarterback Steve Schuweiler, who hit Cory Rollings on 35- and 20-yard touchdown passes and also connected with Derek Yachison on a five-yard score.
"Our offence played well, and our defence, at times, did too," Olthuis said. "I don't know, it's just kind of . . . for some reason we play to other teams' ability . . . and we've got to set our own ability."
Lake didn't have his most consistent effort, but still managed to hit Ecclestone for a pair of touchdowns and Josh Beauchamp for a score. Emanuel Juma had the Rebels' other touchdown, on a three-yard run that opened the scoring in the second quarter.
EXTRA POINTS: Palmarin had 123 yards on 18 carries. . . . Because of a required eight-hour break for their bus driver, the Rebels were forced to wait at Hillside Stadium after the game, and couldn't even leave to eat as they had to wait around with their equipment. . . . They drove through the night and caught an early Sunday ferry back to Victoria. . . . Okanagan Sun head coach Shane Beatty, a Kamloops native, was in the crowd. The Sun had beaten the host Valley Huskers 38-17 earlier Saturday. . . . The Vancouver Island Raiders knocked off the visiting Langley Rams 41-27 on Saturday, meaning the Raiders (5-2) are tied for first with the Sun and Rams. . . . The fourth-place Broncos are at home to the Sun on Saturday, 7 p.m. . . . DB Dane Douglas, DB Ben Hoffman and DB Dan Orydzuk had interceptions for Kamloops, but Hoffman left the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury in the third quarter. . . . DB Suhail Matthew had an interception for Westshore.