Touchdown celebrations are as much a part of high school football as wing-T formations and unexpected upsets. Yet, just as they do in the NFL and NCAA, some celebrations do occasionally cross the line into insult, rightfully earning excessive celebration penalties as a result.
That certainly didn't seem to be the case on Friday, when two Louisville (Ohio) High football players celebrated what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown against Cleveland (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit High with just 1:15 remaining in the game with a testament to a late friend who had passed away just days before the season-opening game. Unfortunately, referees felt differently and penalized Louisville for excessive celebration, setting the stage for a game-winning field goal for Walsh Jesuit as time ran out. You can see video footage of the pointed celebration directly below.
As reported by the Associated Press and Fox 8 Cleveland, among other Ohio sources, the "excessive celebration" came as Louisville wide receiver Alex Schooley and teammate Gavin Lovejoy met each other in the end zone after Schooley's late touchdown reception, which gave Louisville a 26-24 lead. Instinctively, the two Louisville players pointed at the sky, a motion intended to pay tribute to a close friend who had died in an accident just days before.
That's when a flag flew in from an official, citing excessive celebration because the players' heavenward point was considered an action that drew attention to themselves. Despite Louisville coach John DeMarco's protestations, the penalty stood, as did the narrow, 26-24 lead following a missed two-point conversion.
The penalty pushed back the ensuing kickoff 15 yards, and Walsh Jesuit returned the boot all the way to the Louisville 29-yard line. Less than a minute-and-a-half of official time later, Walsh Jesuit was celebrating a come-from-behind, season-opening 27-26 win while Louisville was bemoaning a misinterpreted honor for a friend.
As the AP reported, Ohio High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner Henry Zaborniak said that the game officials responsible for the call were actually correct in penalizing the tribute, as it could be considered offensive to the other team without first knowing the context of the gesture. Perhaps more surprisingly, Louisville athletic director Rich Venuto agreed with the officials' decision, as he told Fox 8.
Still, Louisville fans and football parents are still in an uproar over the perceived slight, or lack of flexibility shown by officials in a season-opening football clash for both schools.
"[It was just] a simple gesture to heaven," Ann Miller, the grandmother of a Louisville player, told the AP.
Thank you to Louisville Leopards for the video. You can find more highlights from the game here
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