When Michael Ferns was racing toward the end zone, the Clairsville (Ohio) St. Clairsville High star had nothing in front of him but green grass and glory. He was seemingly seconds away from scoring his 12th touchdown of the season and wrapping up a victory for St. Clairsville against area rival Richmond (Ohio) Edison High.
Then, just feet short of the goal line, Ferns slowed and walked out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Everyone in the stadium was stunned, except for Ferns' teammates, who instantly knew what he was doing: He was setting up a teammate to score a fitting touchdown in memory of his late father, who had died just two days earlier from a catastrophic stroke.
The player in question was Logan Thompson, a devoted freshman varsity football player who had never registered a single carry before in his career. Still reeling from his father's death, Thompson suited up for St. Clairsville nonetheless, providing security for the team's upperclassmen. During the team's victory against Edison, St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean had secretly encouraged his skill players to pull up short of the end zone if given the chance, setting the stage for Thompson to have a memorable first carry right into the end zone.
Still, the plan was almost sabotaged by the referees, who were completely stunned by the fact that Ferns hadn't actually scored. As reported by USA Today, two referees actually signaled that Ferns had scored a touchdown before one of his teammates came rushing in to argue that his team had not actually scored, a surreal twist on the usual officiating protestations put forth by high school players and coaches.
Eventually, McLean's plan worked to perfection when Ferns found himself on a breakaway, then switched rolls to move from running back to bruising fullback for Thompson's cameo, helping clear a massive hole in the Edison line through which Thomson rolled into the end zone.
While Ferns is a highly regarded Michigan recruit, Thompson was the star of his team's victory, thanks to a touchdown that clearly meant even more to the freshman than his teammates hoped it might.
"Looking straight up into the sky after scoring my first varsity touchdown…i know the old man was watching! love and miss you so much daddy," Thompson tweeted after the victory.
Added McLean: "[Thompson's touchdown run] was something that touched the whole team. Logan was going through so much and for a few minutes we helped him get his mind off of things. It honored his dad. It was just an awesome moment."
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