In the fall of 1999 I had just graduated from college for photojournalism and was doing a test run on a web site that followed high school football across the state of Illinois (www.IHSFW.com). I went to some high profile games, but since it was a test run I mostly followed the high school I went to Joliet Catholic, through the playoffs.
There’s a huge, though not often played, rivalry between JCA and Morris High School, a town one county to the west of Joliet. In the 1999 playoffs the two met and it all came down to a field goal kick by Morris in the final minute. Before the kick I knew there would be a great reaction shot from the kicker if he made it, but because of the late fall sun I had made the call to stay on the west side of the field, the side Joliet Catholic was on. I knew the kicker would most likely turn to the Morris sideline and I would have nothing but his back and if lucky some hands stretched into the air, or him jumping into another players arms.
Just as the play was about to start I focused on the stands and Morris bench, with the complete game action in the foreground. I knew that the defense would be sending the house, so there was a chance for a blocked kick, but given that could happen at the snapper, behind the line, or just above the linemen I chose to go wide with my focus on the stands & players. I
With just 53 seconds left in the game the field goal was no good. Some say a Joliet Catholic player had a hand on it, others say it was just missed, but while I did get some reaction shots from the defense, this image was my favorite from the set. The fans with the sun in their eyes, holding their breath and every player and coach on a knee holding hands as this ball is just feet off the ground. The defense getting some serious penetration on the offensive line.
It was the calm before the storm and just looking at this photo I can hear a pin drop.
Looking back it feels like even after all these years, this game is still being played and in just seconds you’ll hear the roar of the crowd, but you don’t know from which side that roar will come from.
More photos from Morris vs. Joliet Catholichttps://vincentdjohnson.zenfolio.com/morris-high-school-vs-joliet-catholic-jca-1999