Football is one of the most exciting high school sports. From the excitement of kickoff to the final whistle, game day is filled with suspense and nail-biting moments. While every football game has its share of unexpected twists, it’s those special plays that stand out as truly memorable. For instance, who could forget when LaVar Arndt set up a backward punt on fourth down during Montaberry’s homecoming game? Or when Patrick Crawford scrambled 25 yards for a touchdown in overtime against Lufkin? Indeed, whether they be trick plays or a safety blitz gone horribly wrong, there are so many exciting football plays worth remembering in high school game day. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most exciting examples:
The double pass is a trick play involving two quarterbacks. The first quarterback throws the ball to a teammate behind the line of scrimmage. That teammate then quickly tosses the ball to the second quarterback, who throws it to a receiver deep downfield. The double pass can be extremely risky, as it requires precise execution by every player on the field. One miscue, and the play is likely to end up a turnover. Even so, it is exciting to behold, particularly when it results in a touchdown. The double pass is a specialty of the football program at the University of Virginia. Coach George Welsh, who coached the Cavaliers from 1972 to 2000, once said that he would rather lose a game on a double pass than win with it. That is quite a statement, indeed, but it is easy to see why. For a double pass to succeed, every player needs to do his job with precision. When it works, though, it is spectacular.
Hail Mary Pass
The Hail Mary Pass is one of the most thrilling plays in football. It occurs when the quarterback, with little or no time left on the clock, heaves the ball deep downfield in the hope that a receiver will catch it before it hits the ground. The name comes from the Christian prayer, which is said to be said by everyone on the field when the quarterback throws. The Hail Mary is a risky play, but when it works, it is truly a sight to behold. A perfect example of a Hail Mary touchdown came in 2010 when DeAndre Hopkins of Cedar Grove High School caught a 73-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds of his game against Oxford High School. Now a member of the Houston Texans, Hopkins’ touchdown was the first of his high school football career.
The Hook and Ladder
The Hook and Ladder is a trick play in which the ball is thrown backwards to a player who is on the far side of the field. That player then throws the ball forward to a receiver who tries to run the ball for a touchdown. The play is similar to a reverse, but is more difficult to execute. A great example of a Hook and Ladder comes from the game between Lower Richland and Gaffney. There, Gaffney quarterback Jake Medlin threw a backward pass to running back Trey White, who had run the ball from the far side of the field to the near side. White then threw a forward pass to wide receiver Zach Hamby, who ran the ball all the way to the end zone.
Field Goal Block
The field goal block is arguably one of the most exciting plays in football. It is executed by having one or more defenders jump over the long snapper and sprint toward the place where the field goal holder is set to catch the ball. When a defender breaks through the line, he attempts to swat the ball away from the holder. If he succeeds, the ball is likely to roll toward the goal line. It is then up to the defense to recover the ball and hold their ground against the rest of the offense. A great example of a successful field goal block happens in the game between Salem and Northside. There, Northside’s Clay Johnson leaped over the long snapper and swatted the ball out of the hands of the field goal holder. The ball rolled toward the end zone, and Johnson fell on it for a safety.
The safety blitz is a risky play that often ends in disaster for the defense. It involves a defensive player rushing the quarterback without dropping back into coverage. When a blitz is unsuccessful and the quarterback throws a long pass, the defense often cannot stop the receiver from scoring. A great example of a safety blitz gone horribly wrong comes from the game between Westfield and Fairfield Central. There, when Fairfield Central quarterback Carter Benton dropped back to pass, Westfield’s defensive end, Jacob Payne, ran toward him. In an attempt to get pressure on Benton, Payne nearly jumped over him. When Benton threw a short pass, Payne was too far away to make a play on the ball or the receiver. Consequently, Westfield turned what could have been a sack into a 60-yard touchdown pass.
Play-Action Fake Punt
The play-action fake punt is one of the most exciting plays in high school football. When circumstances warrant, a team will fake a punt. This involves the punter setting up as if to punt. However, instead of kicking the ball, he will hold it and then toss it to a teammate. The teammate who receives the ball then tries to run it for a first down. A successful play-action fake punt can dramatically change the momentum of a game. A great example of this comes from a game between Powhatan and Cumberland. There, Cumberland was down by a touchdown late in the game. The team then risked a play-action fake punt. It was a bold move, but it paid off as Cumberland successfully gained a first down. This kept the team in the game and led to a come-from-behind win.
Wide Receiver Screen
The wide receiver screen is a play in which the quarterback throws the ball to a wide receiver who is close to the line of scrimmage. Wide receivers are generally fast players with good hands. They can, therefore, run with the ball and make yards after the catch, even if they are close to the line of scrimmage. A great example of a wide receiver screen happens in the game between Western Branch and Potomac. There, Potomac quarterback Will Brown threw a screen pass to his speedy wide receiver. The receiver caught the ball close to the line of scrimmage and then ran for a touchdown.
Football is a game of big moments, and the plays described here are the ones that have stood out for the Virginia high school football program. They have come in all shapes, sizes, and types, and have been executed using a variety of techniques. What all of these exciting football plays have in common, though, is that they have each managed to change the course of a game through a flurry of action. Whether they be trick plays or a safety blitz gone horribly wrong, there are so many exciting football plays worth remembering in high school game day.