It was a drop that Alvin Arnold will never forget.
The junior wide receiver from Hollywood Hills (Hollywood, Fla.) is known for his solid hands, which made his dropped pass in the final seconds of the quarterfinal match at Sunday's USF Sling-N-Shoot tournament all the more surprising.
"Alvin never drops anything, not even in practice," said Hollywood Hills head coach Scott Barnwell. "He was pretty upset about it, because we were eliminated."
Little did Arnold know at the time that his mistake would lead to a life-altering experience.
Disappointed and tired from the long weekend, Barnwell drove Arnold and three teammates -- senior Clarence Murphy and juniors Jared Maldonado and Anthony Yerou -- southbound on U.S. Highway 27 alongside parts of Lake Okeechobee near Clewiston when he saw a man frantically trying to wave down help on the other side of the highway through the pouring rain.
"We're driving and I could see a truck overturned in the canal," Barnwell said. "The boys didn't hesitate; they asked me to turn around and go back."
While waiting for a spot to make a U-turn with his van, Barnwell, a former police officer in Miami-Dade County, put together a game plan that would be more important than any gridiron contest.
"I told them to stick together and listen to Coach," he said. "I had a strong feeling there might be a child in there, and if that was the case to let me grab the baby and for them to go for the adults."
When Barnwell pulled his car up beside the embankment and saw a baby carriage, he quickly jumped in the murky waters in search of the 2-year-old granddaughter of James and Juanita Carrillo Bryan.
The SUV had apparently hit standing water, slid off the highway and flipped into the canal, according to The Miami Herald. The players ripped the SUV's door off the hinges as the water, which was about four feet high, continued to rise. The child was trapped in a car seat, which Barnwell freed her from and pulled her to safety. James Bryan's rescue quickly followed.
"Everything was a blur for the most part," said Murphy, a defensive lineman. "We were full of adrenaline, and we pulled that door until it came off."
Juanita Carrillo Bryan's rescue was much more difficult.
"After we pulled the guy out he kept screaming 'My wife is under water!'" Maldonado said.
Juanita Carrillo Bryan was completely unconscious, submerged and strapped into a seat belt.
With the help of another motorist, they freed the 53-year-old. The players had to lift her from the water and up a steep embankment to get to her shore. Maldonado then started to administer CPR, something he learned as a freshman.
"She didn't have a heartbeat, she was pale, and I was just in shock by seeing what I thought was a dead body," Maldonado said. "But I came to my senses and started the process.
"I never thought I would use CPR -- at least not like this."
During the second set of 30 chest compressions, Maldonado said he saw Bryan twitch, and on the third set she was spitting up water and mud. Paramedics arrived soon after and Bryan was airlifted to a nearby hospital.
Unfortunately, her injuries eventually proved to be fatal, as Bryan passed away Tuesday.
"When I heard [Tuesday] morning that she died, I was so upset," Maldonado said. "Coach reminded me that I gave her another chance and I did everything I could."
For the most part, the players say the moment came and went so quickly that they barely remember exactly how they were able to do so much in such a short period of time.
"Now that it's over, it feels like it never really happened," Murphy said. "I never thought I would be in that situation unless I was a police officer or a firefighter or something. But everything just flowed; we put everything we've learned into action."
The incident strengthened the bond between the four teammates and their coach. While this rescue had nothing to do with football, it had everything to do with what they learned about each other while playing and practicing together.
"We have great kids and we have great parents," Barnwell said. "These young men showed that the discipline and teamwork and preparation that you learn can be used in any situation in life."
Barnwell, as tough and hard-nosed as they come, could barely hide his emotions.
"I just can't say enough about these kids."
Meanwhile, Arnold -- who could have delayed the Spartans' trip home by at least another two hours with a game-winning catch -- has little problem coming to terms with his dropped pass.
"I'm glad I dropped it," he said. "Everything happens for a reason, and we were meant to be in that situation, working together and trying to help save lives."
"But," he added, "I will never drop another pass again."
Corey Long is a freelance writer in Florida.