10. Front-yard Football (1980 something): It was destined to be just another hot, sweaty but fun neighborhood game at 120 Waverly Hall Close in Roswell until I tried to tackle the hulking Jay Scoggins, his power and my momentum swinging me over the sideline into a waiting rock. Diagnosis: fractured leg.
9. Wake Forest vs. North Carolina (2006): Not only was it a clutch win over the Deacs’ archrival and critical to keeping our conference title and Orange Bowl hopes alive, but the victory was also sealed by a last second end zone interception by LB Jon Abbate, who had lost his younger brother in a tragic car accident earlier in the year.
8. Westminster vs. North Springs High School (1989): I got my first (and only) career interception. In perhaps another decade or so, embellishment will be called for, e.g., that the pick came during a critical varsity playoff run, not mop-up duty on the JV.
7. Falcons vs. Vikings (1999 NFC Title Game): We were flying back from Vegas, and the score updates from the cockpit were not so encouraging. Right after we, um, touched down in Atlanta, the Dirty Birds started getting some big breaks leading to Morten Andersen putting it through the uprights in OT and Super Bowl fever spreading instantly throughout the city.
6. Westminster vs. Dalton High School (1991): Our “small but slow” Wildcat team trekked up to North Georgia to face a Dalton powerhouse program that had amassed a 97-20-4 record in the prior decade. Sparked by the kickoff return TD of my first cousin Thomas (who, as you can see here, was accustomed to dramatic performances), we returned to Atlanta with a huge W.
5. “The Choke in Doak,” aka Florida vs. Florida State (1994): Seated in special, overflow-crowd end-zone bleachers, my family and I soaked up an amazing chapter in the best football rivalry of the ‘90s and witnessed an historic comeback by the hometown ‘Noles, which somehow forced a tie after trailing 31-3 in the 4th quarter. You know it’s quite another level of football intensity when the whole marching band enters the field chanting an obscenity toward the visitors.
4. Westminster vs. St. Pius (1988): My brother had his career rushing game (154 yards) during a torrential downpour in Atlanta. “I remember Dad and [Uncle] Bud walking out on the field to congratulate me [and] worrying about getting Bud dirty with a hand shake,” Greg said. “I started fumbling around for a nonexistent dry spot on my uni, when suddenly I’m enveloped by a Bubby bear hug!”
3. Clemson vs. Wake Forest (1992): My Deacs beat Clemson on the gridiron about once every two blue moons, but this college freshman didn’t have to wait long for the special occasion. Finding ourselves with extra, unexpected motivation to celebrate on that Halloween, we stormed the field and later I got a piece of the goalpost as a memento (see photo).
2. Ga. Tech vs. Wake Forest (2006): The weather and the final score (9-6) were pretty ugly, but the result was so beautiful: my Deacons’ first conference title in 36 years! (Believe it or not, my wife got to slip on an Orange Bowl committee member’s blazer back at the post-game tailgate.)
1. Ga. Tech vs. UVa. (1990): Never has a family football clash held so much significance and offered so much drama — my brother’s #1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers hosting my father’s (and childhood) team, Ga. Tech, which would finish that season #1. The Yellow Jackets prevailed in an epic, back-and-forth 41-38 game with a last minute Scott Sisson field goal.