In his bestseller “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” Mitch Albom wrote that every end is just a beginning, only we don’t know it at the time.
On Sept. 15, 1984, in Ada, Okla., East Central thought it had the ending on a rout against visiting Eastern New Mexico University. A Kenny Bare touchdown reception had made the score 46-14 over the Greyhounds with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
What everybody found out in the next 19:03 of football was that it wasn’t the end, but instead the beginning to a comeback unbecoming of a team that would finish the season with a .500 record.
A 46-14 lead might be insurmountable for the current incarnation of Greyhound football and its run-heavy offense. That wasn’t the case for these pass-happy Greyhounds, led by NAIA All-America quarterback Kevin Kott and receivers that included Steve Jackson and Derrick Harden.
The 1984 Greyhounds were described by former faculty member Jack Scott as a team that, “threw on every down,” sometimes making games so long that Scott would arrive home from a football game at 11 p.m. and explain to his wife the only place he had been was Greyhound Stadium.
That passing attack was a key to getting back into that game, as Kott completed pass after pass to Jackson and Harden. Jackson and Kott hooked up on a 23-yard score with 1:57 left in the third quarter to start to comeback.
The Greyhounds followed with a 15-yard scoring grab by Derrick Harden, a 12-yard touchdown catch by Harden, a 17-yard reception by Jackson and a 30-yard score by Rodney Griggs to give the Greyhounds a 50-46 lead.
Kott ended up completing 34-of-52 passes for 500 yards and six touchdowns. The Tigers’ offense fizzled against a Greyhound defense that was stacked against the run. The Tigers followed up their final touchdown with a five-play drive, a three-and-out, a turnover on downs, and a failed fake punt to set up the Greyhounds’ final scoring drive.
“I told him if you can stop the running back from scoring you can beat them,” said Scott, who had scouted the Tigers the week before. “That’s just what they did.”
“They were killing us with the run, so we changed the defense,” said Clemon Carter, a defensive back on the team who now works at a utility company in Las Vegas, Nev. “I think we put seven, eight (guys) in the box and kind of stuffed them.”
After Griggs’ reception made the score 50-46, the Tigers still had 3:31 left to avoid the Greyhound heroics. East Central drove down to the ENMU 33, but an interception by Carter ended the threat. Eastern ran out the clock, finishing off a shocking game for all the Tiger fans who stayed expecting a win.
“It was quiet as a churchhouse mouse in the stadium,” Carter said. “I think half of them didn’t even believe (what they saw).”
The Greyhounds went to 2-0 after that game, but finished the season at just 5-5. That end brought new beginnings, as Don Carthel replaced Bill Kelly at coach and the Greyhounds joined the Lone Star Conference the following season. Kott’s 500-yard passing day is still an ENMU record, and the memory of a September miracle in Ada, Okla., is still on the minds of its participants.
“As far as I could remember, nobody gave up,” Carter said. “The attitude stayed positive, especially the defense.”