The game was already out of hand when the biggest play of the game came during Rittman High's (Rittman, Ohio) 49-6 loss against Waynedale High (East Union, Ohio).
As reported artfully by the Wooster Daily Record, Mike Halliwell has the physical stature of a big-time high school football lineman. He lives in the middle of a football town in the American Midwest, branding him int he heartland of American football heritage. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Halliwell looks like he should be the starting left tackle at Rittman every game.
He's not, for a good reason: The senior is a student athlete with autism, and has spent his entire career simply being content to play a role on the Rittman squad. On Friday, in the final game of his career, Halliwell was inserted as a left tackle with less than 1:00 remaining in what eventually ended as a 49-6 Waynedale victory. For two plays, the large and in-charge senior set up on the line, made a few blocks and even earned praise from the Waynedale public address announcer.
Then, with 22 seconds remaining, Rittman stand-in coach Lane Knore used a timeout to set up a handoff to Halliwell, who took the ensuing snap 31 yards to the end zone. To the delight of all in the stands, the play went as well as could be expected, with Halliwell trotting into the end zone surrounding by a phalanx of his teammates.
Perhaps most touchingly of all, it turns out that both coaches were hoping that the game would end exactly as it did, with Rittman coaches reaching out to the Waynedale staff before the final play to ensure that they would be ok with Halliwell scoring a touchdown, only for the Waynedale coaches to insist they had the exact same idea.
"I finally got to do something I've always dreamed of since I was a little boy -- make a touchdown," Halliwell told the Daily Record.
Added Waynedale coach Matt Zuercher:
"Rittman's coaches had mentioned before the game they wanted to put [Halliwell] into the game, but the touchdown was pretty spur of the moment," said Zuercher, whose team bounced back from an 0-10 season to finish 6-4. "We were glad to do it. Our defensive coordinator, Todd Barkan, is actually a special education teacher. Earlier in the week, we had taken our players to the Christian Children's Home just outside of Wooster to do community service work.
"We talked about giving back and helping others, but who knew we'd be able to do something like that in our game Friday? It was a special night for our team to be a part of, too."
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