It's a common talking point of modern coaches to implore their athletes to "play to the whistle." While that can sometimes seem trite, the benefit of that fortitude was apparent on one opening week run during a game in suburban Washington, D.C.
As reported by the Washington Post, and showcased in the Post video above, Sherwood (Md.) High kick returner Elijah Spottswood scored a touchdown after seemingly being down, sandwiched between two Quince Orchard (Md.) High defenders.
As it turns out, Spottswood was never actually down, spinning his way out of a tackle with a deft juke and the centripetal force of a whirling dervish. The move helped the returner escape the special teams unit for one of Maryland's most talented squads and jump start his own team's rally in the process.
"I don't know what karma's going on with me right now," Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini told the Post. "Give their kid credit. He made a heads up football play, he didn't hear a whistle. I definitely heard a whistle. I guess it came from the crowd, according to the officials. Their kid didn't stop playing.
"He probably should have been tackled to the ground. I'm the coach of special teams, so I got to do a better job teaching my kids to get the kid on the ground."
By game's end, Spottswood's return was one of a small collection of positives that he and his Sherwood teammates could point to in a 28-12 loss. QO held the Warriors below 80 yards of total rushing offense and used a power running game of its own to control tempo and, eventually, the game.
Still, when players on both sides look back years from now, it seems likely that the play they'll all remember was an early contender for 2012's prep kickoff return of the year.