Nothing was stopping Michael Ferns from scoring a touchdown during the football game between Ohio's St. Clairsville High and Edison High on October 5. Ferns, however, stopped running just one yard from the goal line.
The reason? To let a teammate honor his father who had recently passed away.
Just feet from the goal line, Ferns walked out of bounds, forfeiting what would have been his twelfth touchdown of the season, USA Today reports. The stadium was stunned -- but Fern's teammates instantly knew what his plan was.
Logan Thompson, a devoted freshman varsity football player who had never had a single carry before in a game, was grieving the death of his father. He had died just two days earlier from a stroke. Despite the recent tragedy, Thompson geared up for the football game on Friday to support his teammates.
According to Yahoo Sports, St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean had secretly encouraged his players to pull up short of the end zone if given the chance, setting the stage for Thompson to have a memorable first carry right into the end zone.
“When I saw Mike break away down the sideline I just started yelling for Logan [Thompson],” McLean said to USA Today. “He was surprised because he -- like everyone else -- figured Mike would just run it on in. Logan didn’t know anything about what we were doing.”
Still, the plan was almost sabotaged by the referees, who signaled that Ferns had already scored a touchdown, before one of his teammates came rushing in to argue that his team had not actually scored.
“I think it’s the first time that the refs have seen our boys argue against us getting a touchdown,” McLean said. “I told Logan, ‘We’re gonna get you in the end zone.'”
On the next play, Thompson was handed the ball and went barreling into the end zone.
"[Thompson's touchdown] was something that touched the whole team. Logan was going through so much and for a few minutes we helped him get his mind off of things. It honored his dad. It was just an awesome moment," Mclean told USA Today.
Thompson was the star of his team's victory, thanks to a play that meant even more to the freshman than just a touchdown.
"Looking straight up into the sky after scoring my first varsity touchdown…i know the old man was watching! love and miss you so much daddy," Thompson tweeted after the victory.
Photo credit: Michael Ferns's Twitter account.