Wake

Great Santino Delivered One Shining Moment for Wake Forest

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I think back now, on this last day of the Wake Forest football season, to one evening some five weeks ago soaking in the euphoric vibes at a Mexican restaurant in Winston-Salem with three other Wake Forest friends.

We ordered several plates of food: tacos, burritos, rice, doubles of all that, and some more burritos, and steak and chicken, and drinks, and more burritos; sure more tacos and more drinks.

We got to this random yet perfect place because we wanted our day to continue together because we were feeling giddy and on natural highs because we had all seen something a few hours before that lifted our spirits, and made us realize things that seem impossible are not only possible but sometimes come true.

We had witnessed third-string quarterback Santino “The Great Santino” Marucci do what seemed throughout the game absurd to contemplate, lead his team down for the go-ahead score with a 12-yard TD pass to Cam Hite to beat Pitt with 10 seconds to play.

This after Wake had seemingly thrown away the game three times in the second half, this after the offense struggled to do much of anything all game long, and then, in the end, in the clutch, the post pattern over the middle for the win. An exhilarating site was seeing Cam Hite catch that well-thrown ball cross the goal line, stand up, and celebrate with his team and the stunned fans.

A win it was, which now feels so precious and elusive. There have been so few wins this Wake Forest football season not just on the scoreboard but also in the quality of play. So few fun moments. So much futility to be perfectly honest.

But for those two minutes at the end of the Pitt game, we had that one shining moment. Something unbelievable happened. A guy who had never played before for Wake rose to the occasion and threw a pass we had no reason to believe he could, to become an instant hero, more heroic in that situation than any other Wake Forest player this season. In a season gone wrong in so many ways, Santino made the team right — for two minutes.

How unimaginable this was that it would be his pass that would be the lasting good memory of what has been – and there’s no other way to say it – a bad football season. Unimaginable because no Wake football fans knew who he was until he became the starter that night. Unimaginable because he hadn’t shown during the game that he had the ability to be clutch under pressure.

For one night, for two minutes, we saw something spectacular, surprising, and spellbinding. Yet — and yet — as suddenly as he became our hero he faded from view.

We never saw the Great Santino on the field again. He’s forever the ultimate one-hit wonder, a split-second meteor shot across the Winston-Salem sky.

Makes me wonder why not. He won a game; the other Wake quarterbacks had a hard time winning. Why not give him another shot?

What if after that game The Great Santino became the full-time starter and led Wake to several more wins? Why didn’t that happen? Seems like he would have had as good a chance of winning as the other guys. He proved he knew how to do it.

Not second guessing so much as wondering what could have been, wishing the season would have gone a different direction. Imagine: The Great Santino leading Wake Forest to football glory after coming in mid-way through the season. A compelling national sports story because of its rarity and improbability.

But all is over now except today’s rudimentary game and a deeply complicated off-season. What I will remember from this season is that night when Hite caught that pass and crossed the goal line and Santino got lifted on his teammates’ shoulders and unleashed joyous emotion in the locker room with all of them cheering him on.

What I will remember is that night with three authentic Wake Forest football fans, driving from the stadium searching for a place to eat and keep talking about the game, parking in a Mexican restaurant ordering plates and plates of food, rehashing how the Great Santino had warmed and rejuvenated our frustrated hearts and souls – made us feel good – because he showed us unexpected things do happen to those who persist, to those who keep throwing passes, to those who keep coming to practice while not getting to play in the real games. He showed us. On one night. Guts.

The Great Santino elevated me that night and continues to right now, and will continue to in the future because I saw him perform a miracle. People love to see miracles and never forget them.

In this season we’d all like to forget, there’s one guy and game and one play we’ll never forget.

The Great Santino to Cam Hite for the win as time ran out. Let’s be thankful for that.

Because it was something we had never seen before and never will again.

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