HOUSTON—Never mind that football season was over and that his team had just won the state championship. Jarrett Irving still showed up at Dekaney High School Monday morning, strolling onto a campus almost deserted for the Christmas holidays, dressed for a workout.
And he was smiling. The Dekaney Wildcats were officially the best 5A Division II high school football team in Texas and he was officially the outstanding defensive player in Saturday night’s championship game.
"It was just so outstanding how everything happened that night," Irving said. "It was just great. It was a great feeling. Even with the cart, it was a great feeling."
Unfortunately, his team’s championship victory is getting less attention than a weird accident that followed it. More than two million times, people have watched YouTube videos showing a runaway golf cart plow through a scrum of reporters interviewing Coach Willie Amendolo after the game.
Images highlighted by sportscasters after the game showed someone chasing a golf cart out of the end zone. The pedal appears to be held down by a couple of objects jammed into the floorboard. The cart continues rolling, with the driver running after it, almost halfway down the field. Reporters standing next to the coach never saw it coming.
"I heard one guy say, ‘Look out!’ and I took one step back," said Arthur Prayther, who was standing in the cart’s path. "And then I felt my legs going up from underneath me. Then I had a bounce on the ground and I was looking up at the rafters at Cowboy field. When I got up, I saw the cart some 25 or 30 yards down the field with nobody on it."
Prayther said the incident is playing over and over again in his mind... kind of like the video on YouTube.
"I’ve heard people talk about getting knocked out and blacking out, but I’ve never felt it personally," joked Prayther, the publisher of a community newspaper called A King-Size View. "It’s an ugly feeling, believe you me. You don’t forget it soon. I can still see it in my mind. Watching it on tape doesn’t really help the case."
Reporter Jerry Woodley was injured when the cart rolled over his foot but he reportedly escaped without any broken bones.
More people might have been hurt if it hadn’t been for Coach Amendolo. He grabbed the runaway cart and tried to gain control. Eyewitnesses said he managed to steer it away from a number of potential victims before he fell off the cart.
"There was no driver," Amendolo said Monday. "I turned out to be the driver, but I couldn’t reach the pedal. So we headed towards the goal posts."
A number of people on the field scrambled after the cart, running like receivers heading for the end zone. One of them eventually managed to jump aboard and bring the cart to a stop.
Amendolo indicated by phone Monday that he was still in pain, but said he would recover. The DeKaney coach hopes the odd incident won’t distract from his team’s championship victory.
And Irving, the student athlete lauded for his outstanding defensive work, was already getting ready for another game on a different playing field.
"I’m preparing for the baseball season," he explained. " You know, finish one, you got to get ready for the next."