Magical scramble helps Michigan punter turn horrendous snap into unlikely TD

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

In football terms, punters usually live fairly uneventful lives. Walk onto the field, catch football, kick football, trot off the field. That couldn't have been further from what one Michigan punter recently went through in one of the great whirlwind plays in recent memory.

As USA Today put it, the play started like Saline (Mich.) High punter Gage Hammond's biggest nightmare and ended like his wildest dream.

On the play in question, Hammond lined up in punt formation at his own 35-yard line in the fourth quarter of a district championship game against Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer High with Saline nursing a 14-point lead. When the snap came in for Hammond to punt, it sailed far, far over his head, sending the senior scrambling back to his own 17-yard line to try and retrieve the ball and keep any Pioneer's onrushing defensive linemen from scooping it up and scoring.

Yet, instead of pouncing on the ball and killing the play there, Hammond decided to trust his instincts and take off upfield. After escaping a crew of would-be tacklers with a slippery move while heading toward the right sideline, Hammond used a sharp cut upfield to create space in the middle of the field.

By that point, Hammond had picked up a group of blockers, giving himself open field and a peek at daylight. He used all his speed to jet toward the left sideline, eventually alluded one final Pioneer tackler and cruised into the end zone to all put put away the game for Saline.

The unlikely touchdown made a later Hammond error much less dramatic, even if the shanked punt did lead to a Poineer's last touchdown of the season.

"That's why I didn't get mad when he punted the second one out of bounds," Saline coach Joe Palka told"I said 'The kid just scored on a punt snapped over his head.'

"He's a gamer, he's an athlete. Whenever he touches the ball he's a threat to go the distance."

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