"Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" is a fairly commonplace turn of phrase juxtaposing a traditional aphorism and turning it on its head. Still, rarely has that been a more apt summation of a series of events than the final play of a North Carolina football game you see below.
The two teams involved in this debacle/miracle are Topsail (N.C.) High and East Duplin (N.C.) High, where the highly ranked East Duplin Panthers emerged with a 26-21, final-play victory thanks to the simple fact that they played to the whistle. Trailing 21-20 with fewer than five seconds to play, East Duplin lined up for a potential game-winning field goal.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, that attempt was swatted aside by the Topsail defensive line, sending the visiting Pirates into a rash of celebratory delirium. There was just one problem: They forgot to touch the ball to down it after the block.
Normally that wouldn't have been necessary, but this time the block landed behind the line of scrimmage, meaning that the thwarted kick was still a live ball.
That meant that while Pirates players swarmed onto the field to celebrate what they assumed was an unlikely victory, the game was still technically alive. East Duplin's Montrell Stallings swopped in to scoop up the ball and take it to the end zone, creating the rather unique scenario of having two different teams celebrating one victory that each thought it had earned.
"I knew if it was blocked, in college you could run it," Stallings told the Wilmington Star-News. "So I figured we could do it, too."
According to the Star-News, the fault for Topsail's failure to down the blocked kick actually fell on the team's coach, Bryan Davis, who told his players to avoid the ball at all cost after any block, just so they didn't open themselves up for a fumble. The idea there was to avoid giving East Duplin any last chance to force a fumble and get in one more shot at a miracle play.
Ironically that's precisely what happened specifically because of Davis' insistence that his players keep away from the ball.
"We had a fire called, to get away from it," Davis told the Star-News. "Our kids interpreted it. It's my fault because I miscommunicated.
"It's the hardest loss I've ever had. I don't think it's because of the circumstances and the end. It's because I forgot to communicate, and it's all my fault."
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