The headlines show that Marine City (Mich.) High won the 2013 Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 4 football title with a 49-35 victory against South Christian High (Grand Rapids). The story behind the scoreline had everything to do with Marine City star Jarrett Mathison, including the remarkable touchdown return you see above.
As noted by MLive and a variety of other sources, Mathison returned a South Christian kickoff to start the second half 91 yards for a touchdown. The score marked the first time that the opening kickoff of the second half had been returned for a touchdown in 16 years of Michigan prep football championship action. Mathison’s speed was impressive, but the deception of the return’s design was even more notable. When Mathison fielded the kick inside the 10-yard-line, three other Marine City special team players converged on the live ball. What happened next was a textbook example of "Who's got the ball?" misdirection.
Mathison turned his back to the onrushing kicking squad and pretended to hand off the ball to three separate teammates. All four players took off as if they were carrying the ball, with only Mathison holding on to the football. The confusion allowed Mathison to sprint up the middle untouched before he was finally slowed along the right hash. He spun out of one prospective tackle and turned on the afterburners en route to the end zone.
"It's a predetermined call, so hopefully I turn around and don’t get killed," Mathison said.
"There was great blocking until the very last second, and I was able to get through. We did it (the same play) against Country Day and Lakeview, it works every time."
The return touchdown was one of three for the multi-talented Mathison, who filled up the entire stat sheet during Marine City's win. The junior ran for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns, caught four passes for 30 yards and intercepted a pair of South Christian passes.
Then there was the game-changing return, which clearly caught South Christian off guard.
All part of a rather fitting day’s work for a player who made much more of a difference to Marine City’s season than he ever imagined.
"I just thought my role would this year would be to fill in," Mathison said, smiling. "It turned out a lot better [for me], everything happens for a reason."
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