Greg Mihalko and many Carroll County football fans probably will never forget the last game he played for South Carroll.
There was so much triumph, joy, sadness, irony and possible tragedy surrounding that final game it would take a novel to describe it all.
But the bottom line is that Mihalko escaped serious injury on what turned out to be the last play of his celebrated career for the Cavaliers last Friday night at Westminster.
For 20 minutes, a stadium full of fans watched in silence as Mihalko lay on the field and was attended to by doctors and trainers after he took a clean hit in the head from Eric Zepp's shoulder pad on a 3-yard run at midfield.
Mihalko was immobilized and put into an ambulance for the trip to Carroll County General.
Mihalko had carried the ball 38 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns, plus a couple of long kickoff returns, when he went down with four minutes left in the game and the score tied at 21.
It was easy to understand why Mihalko might have been just plain exhausted.
But there was further concern about a possibly serious neck injury, and all necessary precautions were taken.
Fortunately, Mihalko only suffered strained muscles and ligaments in his neck and was at the South Carroll High gym last night for the first basketball practice.
Mihalko, a senior, has been a point guard for the Cavaliers for two seasons and will play again this year.
But the doctors have recommended that he sit out a week before beginning workouts.
He also played baseball one season for South Carroll and was still waiting to be part of his first county varsity championship team when he took the hard hit from Zepp.
A injury during his sophomore football season prevented Mihalko from playing on the South Carroll team that won a county championship.
That elusive first title would come to Mihalko when South Carroll quarterback Tom Luster threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Esworthy and the Cavaliers' defense held off Westminster in the final seconds of the game for a 27-21 victory.
By that time the running back had arrived at the hospital and was asking for a radio to find out his team's fate.
When no radio could be found quickly, Mihalko was given the news he wanted to hear from a doctor.
That's when Mihalko told his father rather sadly: "You know all these years I've wanted to be part of a county championship team, and now I am but I can't be there with my teammates to enjoy it."
Ron Mihalko said at first it did not sink in to him how big a deal it was for his son to miss that moment.
"But later I understood what he was saying and how sad it was for Greg not to be there," said the elder Mihalko.
Another touching side to that game for the Mihalko family was the fact that Greg Mihalko's uncle, John Dzurenko, finally had agreed to come and watch his nephew play football for the first time.
Dzurenko, a former running back for Villanova, lives in Aston, Pa., and did not want to see Greg play because Dzurenko's son, Johnny, suffered a neck injury in his last high school game.
"It's so ironic," said Ron Mihalko. "Greg's cousin [Johnny] wore the same number  as Greg and had the same running style. His neck injury also was not serious, but he didn't play again because of it, and I think that's why John and his wife [Loretta] had trouble coming down to see Greg play."
Ron Mihalko said everything was fine about 90 minutes after he and his wife arrived at the hospital with their son.
"They released Greg at 11:30 that night and it made us feel good to have people like Westminster coach Tim Ebersole come to the hospital to see Greg," he said.
"And we've received all kind of phone calls from people asking how Greg is. That kind of overwhelming caring from people makes you realize that maybe winning isn't the most important thing in football."
Greg Mihalko said last night after returning from watching basketball practice: "I'm fine now. I wanted to stay and watch the rest of the game. It was great to find out we had won. I guess this is something I'll never forget."