Call it the most bizarre ending of the year in high school football.
Otter Valley (Brandon, Vt.) was clinging to a 16-14 lead Saturday over Jericho Mount Mansfield with 16 seconds left following a 20-yard field goal. After fielding a squib kick, the Cougars used a 32-yard pass to help set up a 46-yard field-goal attempt with just 1.3 seconds remaining.
The kick was about five yards short and was fielded in the end zone by an Otter Valley player who ran it out to his 11, where he spiked the ball and began celebrating.
However, even though time had elapsed, no whistle had been blown.
Quicker than a speeding bullet, Mount Mansfield junior Jeff Sutherland alertly scooped up the ball and ran eight yards to paydirt. Touchdown!
Now it was Mount Mansfield that was celebrating an incredible 20-16 victory.
"The (official) ruling was that the kid fumbled the ball," Mount Mansfield coach Marty Richards explained to MaxPreps. "The last play continues until the referees call it dead. The Otter Valley coaches contested it for a few minutes. I had an injured player and had to take care of him. I really feel bad for the kid from Otter Valley."
Richards said he never had seen such a play during his 20 years of coaching.
"This sort of tops them as the oddest ending," he conceded.
The veteran coach paid tribute to Sutherland, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound safety and tight end.
"We coach our kids to play to the whistle – like every other coach in America," Richards said. "Jeff really saved the game for us because he also stopped their quarterback (earlier) on a two-point conversion at the goal line. It was one of the best form tackles I’ve seen all year."
Sutherland told MaxPreps, "For it to be over, you have to knee it (the player did not go down on a knee when he dropped the ball). It was instinct, but also that mentality to play to the whistle."