Conventional wisdom holds that when a loose ball hits the turf, any lineman in the area should jump on top of it and either save it for his team or recover a key turnover. Yet, sometimes the ball looks so inviting that a beefy lineman comes along and scoops it up and starts to rumble down the field.
When it works out, the highlights are almost universally among the best of the year. When it doesn't, the results can be downright calamitous.
The latter scenario was the case on Saturday, with Hazlehurst (Miss.) High edging Charleston (Miss.) High for the state's Class 3A state title thanks to one of the stranger fourth quarter plays anyone is likely to see.
As reported by the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Hazlehurst was trailing 14-13 in the fourth quarter while driving down the field, when running back Demetrious Cain was handed the ball. The back cut through the middle and reached for the goal line, but overextended himself, leaving the ball tumbling to the turf.
Right on cue, Charleston defensive lineman Jamal Brock ran to the ball, scooped it up and started motoring across the field, apparently attempting to reach the sideline and turn upfield for a big return.
He never got there. Instead, Hazlehurst star Dycelious Reese ran over, stripped the ball from Brock and run in the second fumble of the play for a shocking touchdown, giving Hazlehurst the lead that would eventually land it a 21-20 win, thanks to a subsequent two-point conversion pass.
"I seen the ball pop up in the air, I was like, 'Oh Lord,' " Reese said. "I seen No. 78 pick the ball up, I knew he wasn't a running back, I knew he didn't know how to hold (the ball), so I immediately went for the ball and try to strip it.
"The ball came in my hands, I squeezed it so tight and I ran into the end zone."
Reese deserves plenty of plaudits for his heads up play and refusal to give up on a live ball. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the player happiest to offer up that praise is the very man who initially made the second strip and recovery necessary for Hazlehurst.
"That's the craziest play I've ever seen," Cain said. "I'm just happy it's over with."
It's hard to argue with that assessment.