It was going to be the last game of Lowell High’s 2014 season. They were sitting at 5-5, and were therefore eliminated from postseason contention. That fact did not lessen the intensity and meaning of the game for the Red Raiders.
Each of the past three seasons, Lowell finished with a winning record. The outcome of the season’s final game, against a solid 7-3 Haverhill team, would determine whether or not that streak would continue. And so Lowell took the field with that goal in mind, capping the season with a win and finishing the seniors’ careers with four winning campaigns.
The game itself was a defensive struggle, but Lowell had the lead late. Clinging to an 8-6 advantage, Haverhill was driving with only minutes left in the season. Haverhill had a first and goal at the Lowell one yard line, needing a score to take a late fourth quarter lead.
Haverhill ran to the left on first down. No gain. They ran again on second, still inches short. They tried a quarterback sneak on third down and still came up short. Fourth down was another sneak, which Lowell stopped once again. Neither team had a strong kicker, so kicking a field goal was not an option. It was a huge defensive stand that seemingly sealed victory.
The only problem was, they had the ball at their own one up only two. A first down was needed in order to not give the ball back to their opponents. After three plays, Lowell had not moved the ball even a yard. Without a viable punting option, Lowell had to go for it. If they don’t pick up a first down, Haverhill has first and goal at the one once again.
”The quarterback handed the ball off to me,” Cullen said. “All I remember is, as soon as I got the ball, there was a defender right in my face. So I jumped and went to throw the ball to the tight end, my friend Nic (Coury), I got the ball off just as soon I got hit.
"It went up into the air and he caught the ball for a first down. It was the fourth quarter and it was late in the game. Once we got that first down, we took a knee and won the game. It was crazy.”
You can see video of the play at the bottom of the story.
Ironically, Lowell has practiced this play all season. It was a play always there as an option on game day, but had yet to be called. Cullen had been asking his head coach, John Florence, for a chance to throw a pass before his senior season concluded. When the play was called, Shy was ready.
”Before the play actually happened, I’m thinking to myself I have to get this throw off,” Cullen said. “I have to get this throw off. Everything I worked for and all the work I put in, I wanted to end the season right. I knew I had to get the job done no matter what, no matter how.
"The big thing was, I knew my friend Nic and how fast he was. I’m thinking in my head about where to throw the ball. So as soon as I touched the ball, I just threw it right there.”
As if executing the play is not difficult enough, Cullen had a defender in his face as soon as he took the ball from his quarterback. Some may have panicked in that situation. Shy did not.
”I just knew I had to be quick,” he said. “I just reacted. As soon as I reacted with the defender right in front of my face, I just figured out where Nic was. It all slowed down for me.
"When I play the game of football, everything slows down. So everything slowed down in my head and I knew where Nic was. I knew where I had to throw it and just got the ball off.”
Despite the result not being a playoff berth, Cullen was able to take many positives away from the season as he looks ahead to starting his collegiate career at Syracuse.
”A life lesson for the season was when you’re high, when things are going your way, always expect to go down,” Cullen said. “We started the season 4-0, then lost a game and things didn’t click the next three games. Then we lost another game.
"Then things started to click and we won the last two at the end of the season. As a team, we all realized no matter what we have to get through the tough times. We definitely did that and kept our heads up and stayed tough.”
Cullen will take his official visit the weekend of January 23rd.
Shy's Jump Pass to Defeat Haverhill: