BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Sometimes, things are what they are. And sometimes, they aren’t necessarily what they appear to be.
What looked like a touchdown during Friday night’s Annville-Cleona at Elco football game was really a touchback. While the peculiar turn of events fooled just about everyone in Elco Stadium, the officiating crew was right on top of things and made the correct ruling.
And in this particular instance, the right call went well beyond perception being reality.
With Elco up 14-6 late in the middle of the second quarter, the Raiders launched a long punt deep into Little Dutchmen territory that struck A-C returner Taylor Prentice on the leg. In trying to get out of the path of the ball, Prentice inadvertently kicked the ball into his own end zone.
A Raider coverage man alertly pounced on the loose pigskin, and the home stands erupted over the apparent Elco touchdown. Disgusted with himself, Prentice threw his hands into the air in frustration – a sure indication that indeed the ball had touched his leg.
But apparently according to the rules, the ball was not a fumble, not a muff, but a punt that had still not changed possession. In short, it wasn’t a live ball at that point.
After huddling, the officiating crew presented Elco head coach Mark Evans with their explanation.
“It hit his (Prentice’s) feet and it was kicked towards the end zone,” explained Evans. “It was still a kick. It was the right call.
“It was a kick because no one possessed it,” Evans continued. “Once the ball goes past the goal line, it’s a touchback.”
“If they (the officials) would’ve called it their (the Raiders’) ball,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Terry Lehman, “I wouldn’t have said a thing.”
Apparently, the rules governing touched punts in high school are different than those on the college and professional levels.
“Do I like that rule? No,” said Evans. “Because it wasn’t our ball. To the naked eye, to the casual observer, to even the seasoned coach, it looked like a fumble. But it was a touchback.”