When they faced off on Friday night, Philadelphia Franklin (Penn.) High and Fels (Penn.) High were incredibly evenly matched. In fact, the two teams would have been tied at 48 with just more than three minutes left if Franklin's Willie Battle had pushed into the end zone on a two-point conversion.
Instead, Battle was stopped just short, Fels held on to a 48-46 edge, and referee Bill Hall stopped the game on the grounds of a safety concern because of encroaching darkness. The head referee claimed neither players nor referees could see in the darkness on the final two-point attempt, and immediately called off the game.
However, Hall stopped the game despite protests from both Franklin and Fels coaching staffs, not because of them. According to the Philadelphia Daily News' Ted Silary, when those staffs asked Philadelphia Public League sports head Robert Coleman to let them finish the game, he budged, setting up a 2:30 faceoff on Thursday afternoon when the teams will play exactly three minutes and 21 seconds -- and potentially, a handful of overtimes.
It's possible that the existing 48-46 score could have been made final if Fels had not wanted to continue, but the school's coaching staff wanted anything but the ending currently on the books for the game.
"Our players didn't want to win that way," Fels coach Bill Harrigan told the Daily News. "Franklin scored the last two TDs. It was like we were being let off the hook. We absolutely want to finish this."
Because Fels will get the kickoff to start the final three-plus minutes, the Panthers will get a crack at some heady public-league records, too. Fels quarterback Tyree "Bam" Rucker had passed for six touchdowns, just one shy of the public-league record. His teammate, Nijah Kelly, had three touchdown receptions, also falling one short of a public-league record, as did Franklin receiver Jonathan Parker.
One public-league record will be broken for sure as soon as one team wins. Before Friday's game, 92 points was the highest combined total for a single game. Fels and Franklin had already combined for 94 when the game was stopped.
Still, it's clear that the motivation behind the game's continuation is purely one of fairness for both teams, even if the non-league game will do little to affect the teams' immediate futures.
"The kids put out too much effort to have it end like that," Coleman told the Daily News. "They're etching records in stone. We're making this happen."