Anthony DeAnda

Columbus senior Anthony DeAnda poses for a photo after practice on Tuesday. DeAnda, a Discoverer captain, has a unique perspective on leadership, having suffered wrestling losses in the state final and semifinal.

The final seconds of Columbus High's loss to Creighton Prep two weeks back was excellent theater.

The circumstances of two touchdowns in the final 35 seconds only multiplied the ups and downs and took players to the extremes of the emotional spectrum.

It wasn't unlike Anthony DeAnda's favorite movie, "Friday Night Lights," in which the protagonist Permian Panthers lose on the final play of the game, coming agonizing inches away from a game-winning touchdown in the Texas state championship.

DeAnda watches the film at least once a year, hasn't gotten to it yet this fall, but plans to before the season comes to a close.

Yet, while that kind of heartbreak on the silver screen was a box office success, in reality, it's absolute misery.

Against Prep, Columbus had the chance to upset a top-10 opponent, earn some respect from the doubters who pay little attention to the Discoverers and set up a possible run to a 6-3 or 5-4 record and a playoff berth.

In a matter of seconds, it was all gone.

CHS players on the field either walked solemnly back to the sidelines with heads down or lingered near the end zone. Some were down on a knee, others almost face down in the grass.

"Yeah, that was me," DeAnda said Tuesday after practice. "I felt that in the state semifinals in wrestling last year. I'm familiar with it."

DeAnda is perhaps a perfect example of always being forced to settle for the role of bridesmaid, never experiencing the satisfaction of finally being the bride.

He's lost two big-time matches under the lights in Omaha during the state wrestling tournament and was on the field against Creighton Prep for both the go-ahead touchdown and the stunning Prep comeback.

Perhaps that's why he identifies so much with the soul-crushing story of a football team more than 30 years after its now-famous loss.

Yet, not even the 2004 film can match up with DeAnda's heartbreak. Hollywood took creative license with several aspects of the 1988 Permian vs. Dallas Carter High School game in order to make the film more dramatic.

There's been no need for that in DeAnda's life.

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His big-time wrestling losses include the Class A 160-pound state title match as a sophomore by major decision and a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker defeat this past February in the semifinals - one win short of another title match.

There are few athletes anywhere in Nebraska who can identify with that kind of pain.

To be sure though, DeAnda isn't a young man who walks around full of self-loathing and pity. Were it up to him, he'd, of course, change the outcome of all those miserable losses. Since he can't, he's taken the opportunity to learn, grow and mature from his moments of despair. While some may cower from past disappointment, DeAnda said it's confronting those shortcomings that have made him who he is. There can be no regrets.

It should be no surprise then that he was chosen as a captain by his teammates. DeAnda is uniquely qualified to step in and speak up in moments of great joy and great pain.

"I've been talking to the guys. I know it sucks, but we need to just forget about (the loss to Prep). There's nothing we can do about it anymore," DeAnda said. "Those last 30 seconds, we can't change what happened.

"It was crazy. Those last 30 seconds we were all hugging each other then...that's football. We've just got to live with it and move on from it."

All the pain has also taught DeAnda to enjoy the process, the journey of a season no matter how it turns out.

That's not to say he doesn't like winning, because he works his butt off to be successful. But making championships the only definition of success is not an attitude he totally agrees with.

DeAnda mostly finds joy in the little moments with his teammates in the weight room, the locker room and on the bus, making guys laugh and learning the personalities and stories of those around him. He's applying that same mentality to his grandmother in Fremont, who's battling Stage 4 lung cancer.

DeAnda has made it a point to find more time in his schedule to call and visit. The cancer revelation would obviously increase interaction regardless, but the perspective DeAnda has gained from tough losses has influenced him to, in a sense, stop and smell the flowers more often.

That includes Friday when No. 6 Omaha Westside comes to Columbus for the final home game of the year. The Warriors, much like the last three opponents will be a big favorite.

Win or lose, DeAnda will take the field with the same fearless attitude, put it all on the line and live with the results.

"We can either keep going or shut down. I think we’re going to keep going because this is our last shot," he said. "I know us seniors, we don’t care that it’s Westside and they have these D-I guys. We’re going to go out and play our hearts out because it’s our last home game ever."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com.

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