The pitch was a bit off.
It sailed behind the arms of Qwoy Blunt and into the backfield.
Blunt scrambled for the ball in desperation. It bounced and dipped 23 yards all the way to Shoemaker’s 7-yard line.
Blunt had seen things like this happen before. Whether he was standing on the sideline or watching his older brother, Jammie, play for the Grey Wolves.
So many snaps have gone bad for Shoemaker. So many pitches have gone awry. So many wins that should have happened.
Eventually, Blunt corralled the ball before the Waco University defensive line pounced on it.
But it wiped out what could have been another drive for the Grey Wolves.
More importantly, though, it was part of what wiped out what could have been another win. Shoemaker could have started a winning streak.
Sure, it would have been all of two games.
But to open the season with a win? That could have started the ball going for the Grey Wolves.
It could have meant an end to their losing ways. It could have distanced Shoemaker even further from its 31-game losing streak.
Instead, Shoemaker was pinned with a 27-20 loss to Waco University — a team that went 3-7 last year. And a team they should have beaten.
Channon Hall is trying to get rid of the losing culture at Shoemaker.
He led the Grey Wolves to a win over Ellison in last season’s finale.
The win ended the streak.
But six fumbles, including four lost ones, against Waco University on Friday night at Waco ISD Stadium proved that Shoemaker still isn’t where Hall or the Grey Wolves’ fans want the team yet.
There were positives.
Most of them were named Johnny Jefferson, who nearly willed Shoemaker to a win.
He broke tackles, ran over linebackers, broke the ankles of the Cougar safeties. But he couldn’t do enough to get the Grey Wolves the win.
His 128 yards rushing wasn’t enough, nor was his 56-yard touchdown catch that he caught in the flat — about 1-yard down field — and took off down the sideline.
He had a 28-yard touchdown run where he broke three tackles, juke- stepped another defender and plowed over another at the goal line to score.
He wanted to win.
The Grey Wolves wanted to win.
When they were down, they effectively moved the ball. They made the game close even though with all of the turnovers it shouldn’t have been.
They still don’t quite know how to pull it out in the end, though.
Players have to hang onto the ball. There cannot be back-to-back holding calls that pin the offense inside the 20-yard line. On a third-and-12 with less than a minute left when the offense needs the ball back, the defense has to make the stop.
Of course, Hall knows these things.
“We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Hall said after the game. “We just have to play solid football and not make mistakes and just play with the chains in front of us and not behind us.
“The penalties hurt us. When you try to get something going and you keep getting penalties then it hurts the momentum and the emotion of the game.”
The players know these things.
Hall has told them. They experienced it when they beat Ellison.
But, getting it to happen, getting players to truly believe — well, that is another matter.
The 31-game losing streak is broken. It is part of the past.
The program is still a bit off.
Unlike that pitch, though, at least it is headed in the right direction.
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569