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Football team gets fifth down on game-winning drive

Jonathan Wall
Prep Rally

Everyone knows there are only four downs in a football game, but for a split second during Friday night's game between West Genesee (N.Y.) High School and Baldwinsville (N.Y.) High, almost everyone attending the game -- including the officials on the field -- forgot the rule even existed.

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In a stunning turn of events, West Genesee was granted an extra down during the team's game-winning drive that saw them not only win the game, but remain undefeated (5-0) for the season. As the Times-Standard reported, the game got interesting when Baldwinsville took the lead with just over a minute remaining in the game.

After completing his first pass and moving the chains for a first down, West Genesee quarterback Dan Ginestro couldn't connect with his receiver, setting up a second-and-10 that saw him hit his receiver for 6 yards.

At that point it was third-and-4 with just under 45 seconds remaining in the game, but in the middle of trying to get the clock operator to add some additional time on the clock, the officials made a critical error.

At that point, the officials motioned to the scoreboard operator to add two seconds to the clock, from 42.8 to 44.8. But in the confusion, none of the five game officials thought to inform the chain crew to flip the down marker card from second to third.

Ginestro threw two incomplete passes to seal what should have been a Baldwinsville victory. But because nobody ever caught the mistake on the down marker, West Genesee was incredibly granted a fifth down, which ended up going for 6 yards and a first down.

West Genesee scored three plays later to win the game with only one second left on the clock. Nobody had a clue the fifth down ever occurred until a volunteer worker came over, after the game was over, to notify the Baldwinsville head coach Carl Sanfilippo of the gaffe.

"I thought it was a joke," Sanfilippo told the Post-Standard. "I said, there's no way it can happen."

After reviewing tape, everyone, including the officials and athletic director, saw the error. The worst part of it all was that just like the 1990 game between Colorado and Missouri, where the Buffaloes were given a fifth down that allowed them to win the game and a national title, the mistake in the West Genesee-Baldwinsville game couldn't be reversed.

"There's no disputing there was five downs. I don't know how they could miss it," athletic director Bruce Quimby told the Post-Standard. "Realistically, we'll make an issue just to make an issue of it. Then the [sectional] committee that takes a look at it will see what they can do. What are you going to do? The game is over."

It's a shame to see a game end this way, but after years of wondering if we'd ever see another fifth-down game, it looks like the finish to West Genesee and Baldwinsville was our answer.

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